Bellator 214 “Fedor vs. Bader” takes place this weekend (Sat., Jan. 26, 2019) at The Forum in Inglewood, California. One more match in the Heavyweight Grand Prix will determine a new king as “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (38-5, 1 NC) meets Light Heavyweight champion Ryan “Darth” Bader (26-5) in the tournament finale.
Earlier in the evening, meanwhile, a pair of Bantamweight hopefuls will slug it out on Paramount Network. Recent promotional newcomer Ricky Bandejas (11-1) surprised the MMA world by finishing James Gallagher at Bellator 204. Gallagher was undefeated and viewed as “the next big thing” because of his friendship with Conor McGregor, but not even “Mystic Mac” couldn’t save him in Sioux Falls.
Bandejas may have an even tougher test now against Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta (21-1). He has won 16 consecutive fights dating back to 2015, an average of four per year in an era where anybody not named Cerrone is lucky to have two-to-three let alone win them all in 12 months.
“It feels good man! It’s definitely an accomplishment. I really felt like we would get the win, but I did not know we would blow up like that.”
That victory leads directly to another high-profile fight on the “Fedor vs. Bader” card and Bandejas welcomes the opportunity to prove himself against a fearsome foe.
“I think he’s tough! You know he’s well rounded, I think he trains with some of best in the world, and I think it’s going to be a great fight, you know? I want to fight the best and prove that I’m a top contender at the 135 (level), and he’s the guy to beat.”
“I don’t know. I heard that they’re doing a rematch with the Rizin champ (Kyoji Horiguchi) right away. But, like I tell everybody it’s not really my concern. You know the belt would be awesome to come across and conquer, but I just want to stay active. I want to get fights three or four times a year and that’s my main goal.”
Whether or not “The Wolf” is at bay, there’s also coastal pride at play for each fighter.
“Yes, absolutely! I’m from Jersey, he’s from California, he trains with a big team out there, I train from a big team over here, so it’s definitely a clash.”
Given one man has more recorded fights on his record, though, the one disadvantage between the two men may be that there’s more material out there to study on Archuleta.
“Yeah, we checked out his last two fights. You know he’s just a go-getter, he’s gritty. He’s just ready to come forward and fight and he has great cardio.”
Besides the fact he’s facing a quality fighter with few blemishes, Bandejas is also enjoying the fact that Archuleta isn’t talking trash like his last opponent.
“That was difficult to deal with because it’s a professional sport, and at the end of the day we’re all in it to get paid, so it’s hard to overlook a guy jumping around like that. I think personally it’s a lesson (for Gallagher), but overall in this sport it seems to be what people love. They love the loudmouth. Even if they hate it, it brings a lot of attention to it, and he knows that. He’s a big name in Bellator, he blew up, he’s got a lot of followers online, so he’s not silly. He’s gonna keep doing what he’s doing, keep drawing attention to himself, so you can’t blame the guy — he’s doing something right.”
That does raise an interesting question, though: is it easier for a fighter like Ricky Bandejas to get motivated for a disrespectful opponent versus a “nice guy” like Juan Archuleta?
“Somebody like Archuleta you know, every day I want get up (and) I want to train, because I know that he’s training hard (too). It’s definitely exciting because I know at 21-1 he’s definitely one of the best in the world. Gallagher was 7-0, but on paper he didn’t really beat anybody, so it didn’t do much for me mentally. Beating Archuleta would really just show me that I might be one of the best in all of the 135 (division).”
The other intriguing question is who would be more ready for a title shot after Bellator 214. The winner walks away with only one loss, but Archuleta has already won four belts to date.
“If they offer it (a title fight), I’m ready. I took Gallagher the first fight, this fight I’m taking Archuleta, next fight literally does not matter to me who it is. I’m in it to be one of the best and that’s it. Whoever they think is the best, sign him up and let’s fight.”
In conclusion, what can we expect from Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 214 after he put on such a sensational performance in his Bellator debut last year?
“Just the same overall game, you know? Archuleta doesn’t have any of like the same repetitive finishes or same repetitive knockouts, so I just know it’s going to be a tough fight and I’m just bringing what I always bring.”
Ricky Bandejas brings four knockouts, three submissions and four decisions into the Bellator cage on January 26th. That’s a well balanced attack worthy of challenging “The Spaniard” in a quest to snap his 16 fight win streak and move one more rung up the Bantamweight ladder.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Fedor vs. Bader” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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