Bellator 207: “Mitrione vs. Bader” takes place this Friday night (Oct. 12, 2018) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., featuring a semifinal match in the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix between reigning Light Heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader (25-5), taking on Matt Mitrione (13-5) in the Paramount Network-televised main event.
Earlier in the night two up-and-coming Bantamweight hopefuls — Mike Kimbel (1-0) and Alex Potts (1-0) — will be on the hunt for the second win of their professional mixed martial arts (MMA) careers. However, only one of them has so far been given a “blue chip” designation by the Bellator MMA — Kimbel got the promotional push by performing a powerbomb on Bellator 194’s “Prelims” undercard and then pounding out the hapless Geoffrey Then with heavy hammerfists. The powerful performance was so impressive that Bellator immediately offered Kimbel a multi-fight deal.
That victory may have caught a few people by surprise because Kimbel was just 1-2 as an amateur, but he’ll have the chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke at the expense of Potts, who like his opponent earned a return date by winning his promotional debut. It’s early in both of their respective careers, but “somebody’s OH has got to go.”
MMAmania.com recently chatted with Kimbel about the attention he’s received since his professional debut, and how he’s coming to grips with people wanting to know so much about him.
“Well, I’m glad there’s not too much on the Internet about me! I mean yeah, I have a family and things like that, brothers and sisters and stuff, but you know the world doesn’t need to know everything, you know?”
His desire to separate his personal and professional life is understandable, but the personal details are often what connect fight fans to the fighters they like most. Once I asked Kimbel the reason (s) he got into the sport he started to open up a little more.
“I got into mixed martial arts because I kept getting in trouble for fighting. My mom finally had enough of it, and thought she was putting me into a Kung Fu or like a karate type of school, but it ended up being a mixed martial arts gym. Yeah, I loved to fight, I always had something in me that was drawn to combat.”
Jim Brown once famously opined that, “fighting isn’t what we thought it was” and that was a lesson young Kimbel learned once he started to go one on one with true professionals.
“I was getting taken down and they were doing all these moves that I saw Georges St-Pierre doing and Chuck Liddell, how he was doing the kickboxing stuff, I just fell in love with it and I haven’t looked back.”
From that point Kimbel wanted to excel in the sport and live out the dream of becoming a world class athlete. School yard fights had become a thing of the past.
“I always had a feeling inside of me like I wanted to be bigger than myself. I wanted something greater than myself. I would get these rushes, like tingles, butterflies through me just randomly thinking about greatness.”
Like so many other young men who turned to martial arts for discipline and guidance, Kimbel credits it for saving his life and putting him on the right path.
“I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t fighting, I don’t know where I would be. Hopefully I would be in the military serving my country, in special operations or something like that. I don’t know. I went into the gym, I figured, ‘Okay. I can do this, I can be good at this, I can be great at this’ and I just kept showing up every day. Here I am, 21 years old, doing it.”
And as evidenced by his performance at Bellator 194, he’s doing it in a really big way.
I asked Kimbel what surprised him more — seeing his pro debut being shared all over social media, or getting a multi-fight deal from Bellator immediately after his win.
“I was actually very surprised at the six-fight deal. Every fight I’ve had, every finish I’ve had its always been, ‘Wow! I didn’t expect it to be like that. Did you see what Mike just did?’ So it’s just the fact that a worldwide platform had caught eyes of it, you know what I mean? I wasn’t surprised that it went viral, because I knew the world would be watching. The world had seen many great great athletes and many great great mixed martial artists, and I know every time I step in there, everything I do is going to be, ‘Wow! Look at this kid!’ So I wasn’t surprised at that, but I was very surprised and I was grateful for the six fight opportunity. It’s a blessing. I’m grateful to be a part of this organization. I mean, that doesn’t happen! You don’t make your professional debut for the top organization in the world and then get signed.”
MMA promotions aren’t ranked like fighters so we can’t say who is (or isn’t) on top, but we can say that Mike Kimbel wants to get on top of Potts and dominate him at Bellator 207.
“Yeah, Alex Potts, the match-up for me ... I’m ready for ALL of him. I’m ready for wrestlers, I’m ready for strikers, I’m ready for jiu-jitsu artists. I’m in the gym every day with no ego, constantly trying to learn something, constantly trying to apply something. I’m ready for him.”
If you weren’t already tempted to compare him to another young Bellator prospect, Kimbel just wants you to know this: He won’t fight scrubs and only tough opponents get love.
“I’ve seen (Potts) fight. He’s well rounded. Not for nothing, I might be the only fighter in the organization on the early come up who’s not fighting bums. I’ve never fought a bum in my life. Geoffrey Then had never been finished, and he was actually 1-1, I don’t know why they said he was 0-1, and he only lost in (Bellator) by a decision. I never fought a bum in my life and I’m not gonna start. Alex Potts is another good competitor, he comes to fight, he’s a natural wrestler but he likes to strike — he’s just an overall good fighter.”
Now at last you can say you know who Mike Kimbel is and why you want to see him fight at Bellator 207. He has that unique dichotomy of being both humble and cocky, exuding the aura of a star in the making. Let’s see if that star shines on Friday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Bader” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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