Bellator 185: “Mousasi vs. Shlemenko” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow night (Fri., Oct. 20, 2017), featuring the promotional debut of Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) as he takes on former Middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC) in the Spike TV-televised main event.
Mousasi stunned the mixed martial arts (MMA) world this summer when he parted ways with UFC while in the midst of a five-fight win streak, at a point when he was the No. 4-ranked Middleweight in the promotion. In fact, a victory over former 185-pound champion Chris Weidman seemed to all but guarantee him a path to title contention, but other guarantees seemed to irritate him even more.
Even though his path to the championship may have taken a different road, a victory over the equally experienced Shlemenko in the main event of his Bellator debut would give him plenty of ammunition to call out the winner of Carvalho vs. Sakara in December.
The decorated multiple-time MMA champion recently spoke with MMAmania.com about joining forces with Scott Coker once again after becoming disenchanted with UFC.
“Working with Scott (is) better treatment (and I’m) able to fight maybe for the belt if I win this fight. In UFC you never know if you’re allowed or if you’re going to fight for the belt or not. Probably you have to beat everyone in the Middleweight division before you go for the belt. It depends on how popular you are.”
I wouldn’t have said he was unpopular with four wins in a row by knockout (one even earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus) and he was definitely beating everyone in the division before he left the promotion. Clearly, there’s more to it than that.
“(It’s) better payment, and one of best things also in my contract is, I have influence. My friend is also going to fight and make his debut in Bellator. I was able to bring my friend into Bellator. Opportunities like that (are why). The treatment, the respect that you get as a fighter is a lot better. So far any fighter that has come to Bellator I (have) never seen them complain.”
Mousasi may get better opportunities for himself and his amigos in Bellator, but he also gets to work with a man in Scott Coker who he feels understands fighters better.
“Yeah, 100 percent. Scott Coker, you know, he has a long history in mixed martial arts. He goes back to the K-1 days. He knows how to treat the fighters. You work with Scott (and) he treats you with respect. Now I feel pressure for this fight that I want to deliver. I want to deliver and make a great fight.”
The pressure will be on when “Storm” Shlemenko comes charging toward him in Uncasville, which Mousasi describes as both his greatest strength and biggest weakness.
“He’s not very technical. He doesn’t try to outsmart you. He’s a tough opponent (but) he’s just trying to win by being the tougher guy. I think the difference between him and me is I’m a lot smarter in the way I’m going to fight. I’m coming with a gameplan, I know what to expect from him. He comes to fight, I come to win, I think there’s a big difference.”
Indeed, Mousasi must respect the power his opponent shows with 31 (technical) knockouts on his resume. But, Mousasi feels the physical edge he holds will negate that power.
“Physically I’m a lot bigger, more reach, I’m faster, I’m the more accurate and technical striker. I feel like I have of advantages, but I can never underestimate a guy like that, who comes and brings the fight to you and comes to win. I’m too technical and too experienced to let him get that punch or that spinning backfist of his. I’m too prepared for that.”
At 6’2” with a 76-inch reach, he certainly holds an edge over Shlemenko at 5’11” and a 71-inch reach. In fact, he’s been both a Middleweight and a Light Heavyweight champion for that very reason, but in Bellator he’d like to go for the 185-pound belt first.
“First I have Shlemenko, that’s one task, and then the Middleweight belt. Once I have that I can look for further fights in Light Heavyweight because they have a lot of big names in Light Heavyweight actually. So if I go to Light Heavyweight it would probably have to be something special like (for) the belt.”
Maybe that something special would be getting a chance to shut “King Mo” up since the two have history dating back to Lawal beating him for the Strikeforce title.
“Yeah definitely, that’s also an option, but like I said you have so many big names: Quinton Jackson, King Mo, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Wanderlei (Silva), Chael Sonnen ... all those guys I can fight, all big names for me.”
I suspect only half of those names are available since Jackson is a Heavyweight now, Sonnen is doing commentary, and Silva didn’t look good in his last fight. The next name he mentioned, though, was a shocker.
“There’s also Rory MacDonald. If Rory MacDonald want to come up to Middleweight, there’s a lot of fights that I can get into that the fans will also like.”
At 6’0” with a 76-inch reach MacDonald actually matches up better physically with Mousasi than Shlemenko, but MacDonald is busy right now getting ready for Douglas Lima. In the meantime — while we dream about a super fight between the two —Mousasi has a bold prediction for Friday night.
“If I have to give a percentage of the chances of winning in this fight, I would say 90 percent chance of winning and 10 percent that he could win. That’s how confident I feel.”
Bold words from a former DREAM and Strikeforce champion as he embarks on his post-UFC career this weekend.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mousasi vs. Shlemenko” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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