Bellator 207: “Mitrione vs. Bader” goes down at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., this Friday night (Oct. 12, 2018), with the main card airing live on Paramount Network. Meanwhile, Bellator 208: “Fedor vs. Sonnen” takes place the following night (Sat., Oct. 13, 2018) at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Both shows will determine one-half of the Heavyweight Grand Prix’s final bracket.
On Friday night Matt Mitrione (13-5) takes on Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (25-5) in a non-title match, with each man bringing a win streak of at least four to bear against each other for the right to advance and fight for the Heavyweight title. The, on Saturday night, “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (37-5, 1 NC) and “The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen (31-15-1) meet in the main event, and they, too, are just as hungry to prove they deserve that final slot to battle for the strap.
Today, all four men joined the mixed martial arts (MMA) media to state their case for advancing in the Grand Prix.
Matt Mitrione on being underrated: “Yeah I would say probably. I think Bader’s an incredible challenge. I think he’s the best 205er we have on the roster. I think him coming up to Heavyweight is a show of big courage and a lot of confidence on his side. After I beat him on Friday it’ll definitely be a feather in my cap. I think he’s a very big challenge and it should be a lot of fun.”
Ryan Bader on the challenge of Mitrione: “Coming into this tournament a lot of people had him as No. 1. I feel like he’s one of my hardest match ups for sure. I feel confident. I feel like the Heavyweight weight is not going to be an issue. I’m going to bring that movement, that quickness, the cardio, the relentless pace that I have at 205 let alone at Heavyweight. I feel good about this fight, a good challenge for sure, and ready to do it and prove to people that I belong here.”
Chael Sonnen on juggling announcing and fighting: “The commentating is very short, I don’t do a whole lot of it, just a show every here and there. It really hasn’t interfered. The shows are also on Saturdays, I usually take Saturdays off (from training). I can tell you training’s hard! I’m sore and tired all the time. It’s up and down but the two don’t conflict in the least.”
Sonnen’s opinion of Fedor Emelianenko: “I think Fedor’s great. A lot of people say he’s the best Heavyweight of all time, I’m one of those people, but the best Heavyweight of all time is about to take on the best fighter of all time.”
Fedor Emelianenko on the long-awaited fight taking place: “Yeah, I’m waiting for this fight. I’m looking forward to this fight. I was preparing very seriously, was working hard to get to this fight, and if it’s God’s will on Saturday we will meet each other.”
Chael Sonnen on distractions: “Those fights motivate me. My career will end the same way it started — as a fan. I only have one resentment in this sport and that’s that we only get to do it three times a year. As a wrestler we’d have 30 matches a month. This tournament’s a little bit different. We didn’t choose to fight one another, you advance in a straight line — there’s no animosity.”
Chael Sonnen on his public perception changing to a nice guy: “I will do anything to get out of that role. I’m the biggest heel this sport has. I may look nice, but I promise you it’s a disguise, I’m a snake with blue eyes.”
Fedor Emelianenko’s thoughts on Khabib Nurmagomedov: “I arrived to the United States on Thursday so I did not see this fight and I do not usually watch fights during camp. I heard about the brawl that happened but as I haven’t watched it myself I won’t give any comment about that.”
Ryan Bader on being the only Light Heavyweight left: “I don’t really take any stock to any of it. I keep my head down and keep moving one fight at a time. Lines, favorites, who cares? I think that I speak for all the fighters here, the lines don’t matter, this is MMA. It takes one millimeter to get caught out of position and take a big punch. This sport’s crazy, that’s why the fans love it. Lines mean nothing to me.”
Ryan Bader on facing a Heavyweight: “I put on 10 pounds of lean muscle, but I wanted to see how my body performed and it did great. Now I’m probably around 230, 235 whatever and I feel great. I feel like I’m faster than ever. I’m health most importantly. I came into this camp 100% healthy. He may come in 10, 15 pounds heavier. Who cares? I train with bigger guys all the time.”
Chael Sonnen on what he’s done differently in terms of weight: “I tried to get some weight off last week. I was 227, I’d like to be 220, a little bit under would be ideal. I always thought smaller guys were the better athletes and that was going to be my approach, to chain wrestle, to push a pace harder than other Heavyweights have seen. I’d try to be 220 for Light Heavyweight so I try to be 220 for the Heavyweight class too.”
Chael Sonnen on facing the G.O.A.T. of Heavyweights: “I’ve never thought of it like that but I think you’re right. I should have a little more appreciation. I look back at those moments and wish I had enjoyed them more (but) competition is the only thing I know. In wrestling you’d take on those big names two to three times in one season. You can bring me a bum or bring me a champion though and I’ll treat them all the same.”
Chael Sonnen on what he wants his legacy to be: “I’ve thought about leaving the sport. I have a real frustration with where this sport is at. It’s very hard for us to look at the locker room today where guys need carrots dangled in front of their face. I used to fight at the dog park for no money and beg to get in there. It’s like the Olympic games — the right guy shows up every four years. I want to set the example for the industry — you either want to do this or you don’t and if you don’t get the hell out of the way.”
Chael Sonnen on fighter behavior and UFC 229: “I think it was a really big shock, I don’t know why it happened. I believe everybody in every office or every job site has a co-worker that if they could get away with it they’d like to fight. When the bell rings you shake hands and walk away, that’s the way it goes.”
Ryan Bader: “The whole thing is kind of unfortunate, what happened with Khabib and Conor, people look at us like hooligans even though we’re not. It was expected that (with the build) when Khabib goes out there and wins that fight he’s going to do something, his cornermen are going to do something, stuff like that happens. That was going to pop off a little bit. It is what it is. It happens sometimes but it’s bad for the sport.”
Matt Mitrione: “I echo their same sentiments. Like Chael said once the fight’s over the fight’s over. I’ve got an active normal life, I’m a father of three kids, so I’m not worried about (a beef) with somebody I just beat.”
Fedor Emelianenko: “All the sportsmen according to the nature and the job they’re doing they have huge power and physical strength. They have knowledge ordinary people don’t know in every day life. That’s why it’s important to control yourself, be tactful in what you say, and not use your strengths in every day life. You have to control yourself in a maximum way.”
Chael Sonnen talks about Fedor’s fighting style: “I think it’s interesting. I had one face-off with Fedor and he was shorter than me. More than anything for me Fedor brings a power I’ve never had to deal with before. I’ve been stunned at how hard he can get, particularly with his right hand. That’s the biggest obstacle I’m going to have to deal with. I think he can get a takedown, I don’t think he can keep me down. The biggest standout I’ve seen from him is his explosive power.”
Chael Sonnen on what a win here would mean: “For me whatever fight is coming up next is the most important. That’s how it feels. I’ve got a real short term memory. It makes me feel good when somebody else brings them up and remembers them. Beating Fedor is very important to me.”
Fedor Emelianenko on being called the greatest ever: “So in this Grand Prix together with me very serious and great fighters perform. I understand the responsibility I have and I will try my best. I will try to meet the expectations, and I will try to implement and perform and the rest is how God will manage.”
Chael Sonnen on Fedor being the most dangerous: “I think so. Again it just comes back to that power. I’ve only been knocked down once and I’ve never been knocked out. He’s not the most dynamic, I’ve dealt with guys who can do in more situations, but he’s the most likely to put me to sleep of anyone I’ve been in there with.”
Fedor Emelianenko on Chael’s skills: “Chael is a very serious opponent, and Chael has fought the best fighters, and that’s why I approached my camp and training in a very serious way. To tell you if he’s the most dangerous is difficult because we haven’t met yet but the fight will show.”
Fedor Emelianenko on who he’d like to fight next if he wins: “If it’s God’s will for me to win, I would prefer to meet in the finals the strongest fighter, and I would like to wish both fighters (Matt and Ryan) success, and I’d like to meet the strongest one.”
Matt Mitrione on feeling overlooked: “It doesn’t bother me at all brother. Chael who’s the greatest mouth, Fedor the greatest ever, Ryan the Light Heavyweight champion, I’m just a guy with a good haircut and a pretty face.”
Chael Sonnen on fighting an alternate: “If something happened to Fedor, it would be Cheick Kongo (on Saturday).”
Ryan Bader on fighting a friend in Matt Mitrione: “It is what it is. This is so far removed from that. Going into the tournament and seeing him on this side of the bracket, I knew I’d meet Matt. I fight my friends in camp every day. I got in here to compete and to keep my career going as an athlete and that’s all that it is. It’s a competition, that’s it.”
Matt Mitrione on the same question: “We’re cool man. There’s no hard feelings. We’re competitors man, competitors talk trash. We’ll be cool afterward. If Bader whips my ass I’ll make him buy me a beer, if I beat him I’ll buy him a beer. If you get your feelings hurt then that’s your problem not his.”
Ryan Bader on two belt champions losing one title or being stripped: “I do want to keep both, I do want to defend both, if I end up winning this belt it’s an accomplishment in itself but defending both would be a real accomplishment. What I like about this bracketed style tournament is there’s no outside variable to a title shot. If you win you move on, that’s what I’ve done my whole life. For me right now my mindset is go out and win this fight and that’s it. Looking down the road getting both yeah that’s a goal of mine and then defending both we’ll go from there.”
Ryan Bader on alternates: “I heard through the media Kongo was an alternate and (if someone dropped out) it would be him.”
Complete audio of today’s call is embedded above, and complete coverage of both “Mitrione vs. Bader” and “Sonnen vs. Fedor” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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