clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Darrion Caldwell loves being champion, but ‘The Wolf’ is still hungry for more

Darrion Caldwell interview

Bellator 195: “Caldwell vs. Higo” comes to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., tomorrow night (Fri., March 2, 2018), featuring Bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell (11-1), who takes the spotlight against Leandro Higo (18-3) in his first-ever defense of the 135-pound title.

Main events certainly aren’t new for Caldwell. He’s headlined for Bellator MMA in four straight appearances, three of which were in this very same venue in Thackerville. Coincidentally or not, the only loss of his career so far came the one time in that span he went to Mulvane instead.

Now that he’s back in the “friendly confines” where he became a world champion, he’ll have to reassert his right to the throne by taking on a dangerous “Pitbull.” Higo went to a split decision with the former champion then avenged that loss by beating the only man to beat Caldwell. recently spoke with Caldwell about returning to WinStar World Casino and Resort for the fourth time in five fights and how it feels to have the world title in his possession.

“You know it’s good, man. You know, everything is lovely — it’s everything that I had imagined it to be.”

For Caldwell that dream started at Legacy FC 14 back in 2012 with a decision win over David Armas. Six years later he’s gone from new kid on the block to the man on top with a “Pitbull” barking at the throne, one who didn’t get the job done in his first attempt to win gold.

“I don’t really put much thought into that one because if I do then it’s like, ‘Okay, he lost to Dantas, who beat Joe, who beat me ... it’s just too much you know? I see him as just another body that’s put front of me that I’ve got to knock down.”

Besides that Caldwell, doesn’t believe in that old MMA math. The only formula for him is winning.

“Not at all because I know I can beat everybody at this weight class. There’s not a single fighter at this weight class that I can’t beat.”

“The Wolf” comes by that confidence naturally as a former collegiate champion, current world champion, and through working with some wolves that are as hungry as him.

“It’s not always going to go my way (in training). I’ve got the best training partners in the world you know. Jeremy Stephens, Dominick Cruz, Justin Lawrence. Having these guys around, beating up on me every day, you’re going to feel some days where you don’t feel like yourself - and some days you’re gonna feel like ‘Okay I’m winning’ and then it’s just a whirlwind you know? (I) just put myself in positions where I haven’t been, making sure I can come out the other end.”

Coincidentally, Stephens just recently main-evented UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando, Florida. Clearly, both men believe in putting the “iron sharpens iron” theory to the test.

“Absolutely, man. This is what we live for, this is what we train for, you know? We really breathe and die by this stuff. We’re gonna go out there and put on performances.”

Another advantage for Caldwell going into this title defense is that WinStar World Casino and Resort has become “home turf” for him, having had three of his last four in Thackerville (winning all three).

“I feel at home there. It’s like my home away from home, you know? I appreciate the opportunity to make a venue my home.”

Caldwell wouldn’t mind getting to see a few more places around the country, though.

“I’d like to switch it up a little bit eventually, fight in a place like New Jersey, (and) Bellator just brought Phil Davis and Ed Ruth to Penn State. To be able to fight at North Carolina State would be a dream come true. You know fighting here at home in North Carolina where I’ve been training for the last four years, that would be awesome. Wherever I go is cool with me. The main goal is just to get out there and scrap.”

Even the fabled fighting ground of Madison Square Garden put a gleam in Caldwell’s eye.

“Abso-fucking-lately. I would thrive out in Madison Square Garden, the biggest arena in the world. To be able to fight in Madison Square Garden would be a dream come true for sure.”

None of that can happen before “The Wolf” stares a “Pitbull” in the eyes and defends his prize in Thackerville. Caldwell believes that Higo is more bark than bite.

“Yeah, I don’t really see no ‘Pitbull’ in this guy, you know? If he wants to take on that mantle, be a protege, you can’t beat a protege and beat me so ... good luck to that dude.”

Since Caldwell is so sure “no one” one can beat him at 135 pounds it’s only natural to ask him if he eventually plans to make a move up to Featherweight.

“Absolutely. I’m phenomenal at 145. I’m probably the biggest 135-er in the world, so me fighting at 145 is definitely in the plans.”

George Roop might disagree, but he doesn’t win as many fights as Caldwell ... let alone have championship gold. Caldwell thrives in the spotlight and doesn’t plan to give it up.

“Any time you can headline a show you can show you’re better, you know? I’m extremely grateful and blessed to be able to headline. I remember my very first fight opening up on AXS TV, Holly Holm, she was the main event. To take it from there, to opening up on a prelim, to being the headline event for Bellator, getting to show out is amazing.”

Be prepared to be amazed one more time as Darrion Caldwell faces Leandro Higo this weekend.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Caldwell vs. Higo” resides here at all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania