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Bellator 177: Eduardo Dantas ready to knockout Leandro Higo, prove he’s best Bantamweight in MMA

Eduardo Dantas

Bellator 177: “Dantas vs. Higo” takes place this Friday (April 14, 2017) at Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary, featuring a main event between Eduardo Dantas vs. Leandro Higo with “Dudu” putting his Bantamweight title on the line for the second time since beating Marcos Galvao.

Dating back to 2009, there have only been two blips on Dantas’ radar. One was a non-title fight in Brazil where he got knocked out by Tyson Nam and the other dropping his belt to Joe Warren at Bellator 128. Both losses fueled Dantas’ desire to get better.

Indeed, when Dantas is at peak performance, he displays an incredible amount of speed on his feet and accuracy with his hands, both of which he’ll need to leverage to topple Higo. “Pitbull” has finished 77 percent of his wins (13 of 17), including 10 submissions, so he’ll give Dantas all that he can handle.

Dantas recently spoke with about his title defense in Budapest and his continued quest to be the best 135-pound champion in mixed martial arts (MMA). To start, though, Dantas addressed the change of opponent (he was originally set to face Darrion Caldwell).

“For me it’s okay. It doesn’t matter who I fight. Of course, I’m a little bit frustrated because I want to fight Caldwell — he has more fights in Bellator and it’s Higo’s first fight for the promotion. I like fighting with a guy that people know, but for me it doesn’t matter who is the next — I just train to fight anybody.”

One might be tempted to let it go at that, but given Caldwell’s disdain for Dantas, it feels a little odd for him to not have the fight he campaigned so long to get ... injury or not.

“He paid for his mouth because he talked too much to promote it. I’m here, I’m fighting my next opponent, and he who talked loud can just watch me fight.”

As Caldwell has to sit on the sidelines and fume in frustration, Dantas prepares for an opponent in Higo who is getting a championship opportunity in his first promotional fight.

“I think Leandro has great skills, but if it’s just his first fight or if he had his tenth (Bellator) fight, for me it doesn’t matter. I prepare very hard with the [best] guys on the planet to fight with (so) for me it doesn’t matter who is my next opponent. I’m training really hard to beat anybody.”

Nova Uniao is certainly one of the deepest MMA teams in Brazil, with a “Who’s Who” of current and former champions, but Dantas respects the Pitbull Brothers’ team, too.

“In my opinion, Bellator did a great job to get a guy like Leandro Higo. He’s a complete fighter and like you said he came from a great team, but I think he’s not at my level, and I’ll prove that on the day of my fight for sure.”

Proving that opponents are not on his level has become a trademark of Dantas’ fights. In fact, Dantas admitted that against Joe Warren he took proving his point a little bit personally.

“I always go to my fights to finish my fights fast, but with ‘Loro’ (Galvao) I fight with him before and I know he has some surprises for me so I’m a bit more careful in that fight. With Joe Warren, I wanted to fight him for five rounds, because I wanted to beat him every round, I wanted to punch him every single second to show everybody I’m much better than him and then give to him a lot of damage.”

It seems that certain opponents do get under Dantas’ skin, but nothing bothers him as much as not working hard enough to prove he’s the world’s best Bantamweight fighter.

“I train every day to be better than the last day. I train every day to be better than last my fight. I think in every fight can be better — I never feel comfortable with my game. If today I put in 100 punches, tomorrow I put in a 101. I always try to be better every day to beat anybody in the world for sure.”

Dantas is excited to prove that point again in Budapest, a city he feels is eager and ready to see a Bellator title fight with him in the main event.

“I’m very happy to fight in Budapest because this is my first fight in Europe. I have a lot of fans in Europe and I’m prepared to fight any place, anybody, any part of the world — but I think in Budapest, a main event is great for my career for sure.”

Meanwhile, the career of former champion and former training partner Marcos Galvao seems to be heading in the opposite direction of headlining shows. I asked Dantas for his thoughts.

“I’m very happy because he go up (to 145). We know how hard it was for him to cut the weight, and now it’s there for him to be a champion for sure, because now he’s 145 and not my division again. For me I like him so much because we trained with me for so (many) years and I think this is a better weight for him for sure.”

At this point, Dantas’ translator also explained that it’s much easier for him to make weight by comparison to both Galvao and other opponents.

“For ‘Dudu’ it’s easy to not cut too much weight. His normal weight is like 148, for him it’s not too much weight to cut. Thirteen pounds is easy for him.”

It seems safe to say that Dantas will be both ready and willing to face Higo this weekend, but he has one more thing to say before the main event.

“To my fans in Budapest, please go to my fight and see my fight, but look and don’t (blink) because if you (blink) for sure you’ll not see my knockout.”

The translator assisting said “blind,” but I’m pretty sure “don’t blink” is what he meant. Either way, Dantas is promising a highlight reel finish, so tune in to see one on Spike TV this Friday.

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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