Bellator 160: "Henderson vs. Pitbull" takes place this Friday night (Aug. 26, 2016) inside Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., featuring a No. 1 contender Lightweight eliminator match in Spike TV's main event between former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion Benson Henderson against former Bellator Featherweight champion Patricio Freire.
In addition, a Featherweight fight that revisits a key feature of their programming of late -- the rematch -- will showcase Georgi Karakhanyan and Bubba Jenkins, who first met at Bellator 132 in Jan. 2015. Indeed, it was a good night for Karakhanyan. However, things have not gone as well for "Insane" Karakhanyan since. Consecutive losses to Daniel Weichel and Pat Curran have moved him to the back of the line in a crowded 145-pound division, leaving his submission of Jenkins his lone win in his last four fights.
Can Karakhanyan find a return to form by facing a former foe in Jenkins -- a man who is currently on a three-fight win streak in Bellator? He sounded relaxed and confident about his chances in a recent interview with MMAmania.com.
"I feel good. I'm so excited to fight at Honda Center and to showcase my skills in front of all the Cali fans. I'm glad that Rich Chou and Scott Coker gave me this opportunity to fight in my hometown."
It's a good deal for Karakhanyan and for his teammate Saad Awad, both of whom get to enjoy Cali living and home cooking before their big match ups on the Spike TV main card.
"Yeah, we're both going to be on the same card, we're both going to be cutting weight together. You know sometimes when he fights he's cutting weight (and) I'm over there drinking Corona, or when I'm cutting weight he's drinking Corona so, it's cool that we're cutting weight at the same time."
I'm sure Constellation Brands and Modelo appreciate the free plug, but in all seriousness, Karakhanyan knows he has a serious test ahead, even though he rates the opponents he lost to higher than those who Jenkins beat.
"I'll be honest because the last three guys he fought you can't compare 'em to me. Maybe the last guy he fought (Yamauchi) he's somewhat okay, but I have a different style. I'm just glad that I'm fighting him."
Karakhanyan is also using his recent losses as motivation to double down and prove who he really is.
"I forgot what happened in the past between me and him, because that was in the past, and right now I'm just focused on what's now. It's (about) facing Bubba that's on a three-fight win streak and he's facing Georgi that's on a two-fight losing streak and he's hungrier than ever. I just can't wait for August 26th."
I didn't mind refreshing Karakhanyan's memory about his impressive Bellator 132 finish. In typical Karakhanyan fashion, he vowed to make it even better the second time around.
"Yeah, and I was nice enough to tell the ref that he was out. I think that this time around when I get hold of that neck I'm going to keep it quiet and just let him sleep on my shoulder."
Even though Karakhanyan has more pressure on him than Jenkins given that a third straight loss could put him on the bubble to be cut, he absolutely wouldn't have it any other way than to be fighting the best Featherweights around.
"I'm in this sport to face the best. I'm not in this sport to pad my record. You can look back through my fight record and you can see who I fought. I'm not here to get the easy fights to build my confidence. Confidence builds off of tough fights. Even though I lost my last two fights, I fought a former champion (in Curran) and I fought Weichel (and he's) going to get a title shot, so I don't regret anything I do in my fights."
With former champion Patricio Freire dropping to 155 pounds on the same night, I asked Karakhanyan if beating someone on a three-fight win streak puts him back on the fast track to a title shot in an opened up Featherweight division.
"I don't think so. I think I'll make my name up there, I'll stay up there like, 'Okay Georgi's back on a winning streak,' but I want to get a few more wins before I even talk about the title. I just can't stand this new generation of fighters, these delusional fighters that just have four pro fights and they just talk nonsense. I'm going to keep it real and I'll focus on this fight, I'll win this fight, and then whatever comes after that (is next)."
Perhaps Karakhanyan is taking a page from Freire's playbook, though, because instead of calling out any Featherweights to be next after Jenkins he's calling out a "Punk" ... and he doesn't mean Phil Brooks.
"I want to get more tough fights, I want to fight tougher names -- I want to fight Josh Thomson. That's the fight I'm looking to fight -- I've always wanted to fight him. If I can't get top fights then I'll fight another name."
Why Thomson, though? He's probably back in the mix of Lightweight contenders once he comes back from injury. Is Karakhanyan looking for glory in two weight classes?
"No, no, no. I'm not going to be (1)55, I'm just looking to stack up my record (fighting) good names. I feel like Josh Thomson is a good name, a great veteran, he accomplished a lot in this sport. I'm just looking to test my skills you know? I think some fighters get offended that we want to fight the big names, but there's going to be somebody down the road that wanna fight me to build their name."
Before he gets that chance, Karakhanyan will have to earn it by defeating Jenkins (again) in Anaheim, which is no small task.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.