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Bellator 176’s Carrington Banks jetting to Torino to ‘make a statement’ at Mihail Nica’s expense

Carrington Banks

Bellator 176: “Carvalho vs. Manhoef” comes to Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy, this Saturday afternoon (April 8, 2017), featuring a main event between Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho and Dutch striker Melvin “No Mercy” Manhoef in a 185-pound showdown that will hopefully settle a score that dates back to Bellator 155.

One of the featured fighters on the Spike TV-aired portion of the show is “Jetsetter” Carrington Banks, a The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran and member of the former Blackzilians team, bringing a perfect (6-0) record into a Lightweight fight with Mihail Nica.

Nica has an impressive record of his own (5-0), finishing every one of those bouts with three knockouts and two submissions. It’s also possible the Romanian-born fighter may be viewed as the “local favorite” given both Italy and Romania are members of the European Union. Nevertheless, Banks recently spoke with about making the most of this opportunity, and how he wasn’t shocked UFC never gave him that opportunity ... despite a win on TUF 21.

“I wasn’t that surprised, man. I was expecting the best and the worst really going into that (show). I had a two-year layoff, I was currently 3-0, and I had only fought once (on TUF). You know given that I did win, but in my head, I knew everybody wasn’t going to get into UFC. At that time my team was having a lot of success. I was winning — Kamaru Usman who’s killing it in UFC, he was winning — won the show. Vicente Luque, killing it in UFC, he was winning. Buscape, Jason Jackson — we had a lot of good guys that were doing really well on the show. I knew that only two people were going.”

In the end, Banks feels it worked out well for him given that Bellator MMA is a good fit.

“So much more freedom, you know, just as an athlete just with sponsorships and your career. They do their shows a little bit differently too, you know? Their shows are dope, like they’re actually entertaining to watch, the way that they bring the attention and put it on the fighter. I think that’s really cool and it brings excitement to the walkout, it brings a lot more excitement and energy, and it’s engaging for the fans as well.”

Banks had the nickname “Jetsetter” before taking his first international fight at Bellator 176, so the natural question is how that coincidence came to pass.

“I was a freshman in college and I used to love this song by Tabi Bonney called JETSETTER. I used to play it all the time, during wrestling season it was my shit so, my teammates started calling me the ‘Jetsetter.’ From that point on it just kind of stuck. Carrington ‘Jetsetter’ Banks. I was just the ‘Jetsetter’ so after that point it never left. Even though I never left the country or I wasn’t traveling like that, now I see why ... it was for the future.”

Now that the nickname matches the travel itinerary, I asked Banks to give me his thoughts on facing Mihail Nica in one of the key bouts for Torino.

“He’s undefeated so obviously he’s no slouch. When it comes to me, I don’t look at the record, I look at the opponent — I’m not fighting his record. So as far as a fighter, an athlete, I think he’s an aggressive fighter. He brings it, he mixes it up with his striking well, so that’s something that I’ve been paying attention to and being aware of in my camp. You know just having aggressive people come at me and learning how to deal with it and work around it.”

The Blackzilians, who have had some recent turmoil, tend to put the “A” in aggression as well as twice in their name, so to hear Banks tell it, he’ll be twice as prepared as his opponent on fight day.

“There’s nothing that I’ve never seen. I train with some of the best fighters in the world, aggressive ones, slick ones, high level strikers. With my sparring sessions I feel like it builds my confidence because I do get to see these looks. I just feel like I’m a better all around fighter whether it is striking or wrestling or grappling. In my camp I look at what they do and the top of energy they bring into the cage, but more so I focus on myself and me growing and showing a different side of myself when I step into the cage.”

Banks is also looking to show a new side of victory by getting a Bellator win other than via decision from three judges.

“I definitely want to deliver a finish in this fight. I want to make a statement. Really as the fights carry on, and each fight one fight to the next, I said I’m gonna continue to get better. Every fight’s gonna be better, they’re gonna be more exciting, and the knockouts and the finishes are gonna come. My stand up is getting better, I’m getting more comfortable, and any person who’s been in a cage knows that that takes time. It’s not something that happens over night or (in) one or two fights.”

Banks gives Nica respect both as an undefeated fighter and as a man willing to cut to 155 pounds to take this fight.

“I’ve cut weight since I was a kid. I’m a wrestler so I’ve been doing this all my life. I know my body, I know how to make weight, I know how to be professional when it comes to these things. It’s not easy, cutting weight is never easy, but it doesn’t affect me mentally or physically. I saw that he was a former (1)70 pounder so if anything he better hope they’re not doing all that (testing) because he might have a little trouble. He’s a (1)70 pounder usually.”

Whether his opponent makes the weight or not, though, Carrington will take the fight.

“My first fight in Bellator I fought a dude who came weighing in 12 pounds over. Trust — it is a lot harder to get a finish when a guy weighs about 12 to 15 pounds more than you and he doesn’t have to go through the weight cut process. Not making any excuses, I felt like I dominated that fight, but still it wasn’t an even playing field.”

Tune in for Bellator 176 this weekend to see if Banks can fight Nica on level ground overseas. 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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