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Bellator 175’s ‘Thunderbeast’ wants to thump Jake Roberts ... and Conor McGregor’s coach, too

Steve Kozola interview

Bellator 175: “Rampage vs. King Mo 2” goes down this Friday night (March 31, 2017) inside Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., featuring a Light Heavyweight main event between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who will look to settle a grudge that dates back to Bellator 120 in 2014.

The build to such a big rematch gives other people fighting on the Spike TV-televised main card a chance to shine. And undefeated Steve Kozola is ready to step up and make the most of that opportunity. Kozola’s statistics are even more impressive than his “Thunderbeast” nickname. He has finished six of his seven professional fights by knockout, including four of his last five in the first round. In fact, the last bout of his to go beyond the first round was against Johnathan Rivera at Bellator 132.

What does the future hold for Kozola in Bellator’s crowded Lightweight division, where everyone and their brother is gunning for a shot at “Iron” Michael Chandler? We find out in today’s interview with as he prepares to face Jake Roberts on Friday. When a fighter is nicknamed “Thunderbeast,” though, the first question you have to ask is, “How do you get a nickname like that?”

“So after my second professional fight, my first knockout in competition, my buddies were stoked and were actually driving up to Las Vegas for a little trip Vegas trip with the boys. One of my buddies goes to me and says, ‘Hey Steve we need to make you a little bit more marketable man. Let’s give you a nickname. So we’re going back and forth on names, some we’re serious about, some we’re just joking about — we had some time to kill. I pop out my phone and just start Googling and just rambling off some and one of those funny ones I mouthed off was ‘Thunderbeast.’ Both of my friends just looked at each other and yelled ‘THUNDERBEAST!’ as loud as they could. I thought, ‘Aww geez what did I just do?’”

Fortunately for Kozola, it’s a name he “decided to live with,” which makes him stand out. Curiously, Kozola became a free agent at 6-0 after winning two Bellator fights, which led to a brief stint in World Series of Fighting. Ultimately, though, the relationship didn’t work out.

“It was just a situation that wasn’t coming together, it wasn’t producing results. We live in a results-based society, and after talking with my wife about what we need to do to more forward and make this dream a reality, we decided we need to cut ties from World Series of Fighting and then change management. Now I’m with Tiki Ghosn, I’m back with Bellator where I should be, and the stars are aligning. Look for a very exciting year from me in 2017.”

It does seem like cosmically good fortune to be returning right in time to wind up on “Rampage vs. King Mo 2” and be in a featured fight on Spike TV. Kozola couldn’t be any happier about it.

“I couldn’t be more blessed, more thankful, more excited for the opportunity. I’m fighting back in my home state of Illinois. Last time I was there I had a knockout of the night so I’m looking to repeat that performance. The fact that Bellator’s done such a phenomenal job of how they’re staged, their presence and everything like that, I’m coming into an amazing situation. King Mo, Rampage — what outstanding names to be headlining the card. I know they’re going to do a lot to make that card phenomenal, so I couldn’t be more thankful.”

Kozola knows he’s got a dangerous opponent ahead in the 7-1 Jake Roberts, but his inherent belief is that he brings a “greatness” to the fight that Roberts does not.

“I expect him to be a very hungry individual, and he’s a talented individual. He’s got a good team behind him at (MMA) Lab, I know he has guys like Benson Henderson, Efrain Escudero behind him, and that’s great. I think he’s a good fighter, I think he’s got good stand up, I think he’s got good wrestling, I think he’s got good jiu-jitsu. Where he lacks is the ‘great’ part. I don’t think he’s got great anything if I’m being honest. I know my stand up, my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu is all phenomenal. That’s what I’m looking to display — that difference between good and great.”

And if a win at Allstate Arena doesn’t put him as close to a Chandler title shot as he’d like, there’s a newcomer named Dillon Danis who Kozola would be happy to put in his place.

“I would love to fight him and welcome him to Bellator, and then once I’m done with him I’ll go back to moving up up the division. Dillon Danis is a very talented individual in the grappling department, being a Marcelo Garcia black belt, all his credentials in jiu-jitsu is just absolutely phenomenal. Where I have a problem is his authenticity with himself. All of a sudden you start training with Conor McGregor, being around him, and now he’s trying to impersonate him and copy him. Don’t be a copycat, be you!! Be the best most authentic you you can be. He’s taken away the martial art and the warrior ethos and started being like Conor. Conor is Conor! Conor is his authentic self. He’s been that way from day one, so good for him, that’s who he is. That’s not who Dillon Danis is. I think he’s bitten off way more than he can chew coming into Bellator.”

Strong words from the “Thunderbeast” — let’s see if Danis or Bellator MMA is listening.

Don't miss Bellator 175 this weekend to see if Kozola can remain undefeated against Jake Roberts. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here.

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