Bellator 214: “Fedor vs. Bader” takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this Saturday night (Jan. 26, 2019), featuring the final match of the Heavyweight Grand Prix as Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (26-5) and Pride FC legend Fedor Emelianenko (38-5, 1 NC) collide to crown a new Heavyweight champion. Earlier in the night, two Bantamweight hopefuls face off in a battle to prove themselves worthy of challenging division kingpin, Darrion Caldwell. On one side is Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta (21-1), a man who has won 16 consecutive fights, earning 10 knockouts overall throughout his career. Opposing him is upstart Ricky Bandejas (11-1), the man who shocked the world by finishing James Gallagher at Bellator 204. Gallagher was undefeated and touted as the next big thing in two weight classes, but Bandejas dismantled him ... and made it look easy.
“The pressure of losing is always haunting you when you’re undefeated. After losing (at WSOF 19) it was like, ‘Man what’s the worst that’s gonna happen?’ Especially (after) the way I lost, it was definitely devastating, it definitely impacted me as an athlete — but resetting goals, re-figuring out new expectations to reach and what I want to accomplish in the sport helped me refocus myself and definitely just jump back on the horse again and start plugging away.”
Not only did that loss help Archuleta to start over again fresh, it also led to him making a more serious commitment to fighting that led to his current 16-fight win streak.
“I quit a full time job. I was working on the electrical union, and uh, I just sold myself 100 percent in being a MMA professional. With (the help) of Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson we started out these (16) wins, and got with Tiki Ghosn as my management, and Paul Herrera and Duane Ludwig and all these coaches and training partners that I have now. It’s just been a tremendous team to get me to where I’m at right now.”
That team has also led Archuleta to a prodigious output, averaging four fights a year over the last four years during his current streak.
“I wish I could fight more, you know? There was one year I think I fought about seven or eight times. I just love fighting. Every week I competed when I wrestled for Purdue in the Big Ten, so I was wrestling the top ten guys in the country every weekend and every week, day in and day out and just putting my nose to the grindstone. Fighting’s a little different — you can’t fight all the time — and that’s something I’ve gotta realize.”
That hasn’t stopped Archuleta from asking Bellator for every fight he can get, including Ricky Bandejas at The Forum in Inglewood this Saturday.
“Yeah, you know I’m a fan of the sport and I definitely followed Ricky going into that fight because I wanted to know who Gallagher was fighting. Looking at his resume I was like, ‘Man this is no easy task for Gallagher to face.’ All my focus is on this fight. Obviously, five-round fights are the main goal, but this task at hand is my biggest task of my career.”
After seeing Bandejas’ impressive win at Bellator 204, Archuleta was ready to take him on, too. Archuleta offers nothing but praise for his opponent heading into the fight.
“Ricky’s a true fighter, he’s a blue collar worker. You know he comes to scrap, he has a family that he’s fighting for, he’s not fighting just to fight. He has the same vision that I do and the same characteristics that lead him to me. He’s an 11-1 opponent, and our coaches do a great job of breaking him down and coming up with game plans that I’m going to dictate when it comes to our fight.”
Even though he has nothing but respect for Bandejas, he plans to show him a little “California Love” once he gets to Inglewood and prove why Westside is the best side.
“Absolutely! In New Jersey he’s ranked No. 1 as far as some of the rankings that are out there. I’ve been ranked No. 1 in California on Tapology for a long time, so I definitely do feel like it’s an East vs. West coast deal — AND it’s in my hometown. I’ve had some of the best performances of my life here in California at the Citizens Bank Arena, and to take that momentum into The Forum where I envision myself fighting for many years, it’s exciting.”
No matter how his night at The Forum goes, Archuleta won’t be looking past Bandejas the way that Gallagher did. He’s got big dreams in Bellator, but he’s willing to be patient.
“Well, I just take it as they come you know, fight by fight. From what I’ve read, (Kyoji) Horiguchi has the next title fight ahead of me, which is fine. I’m just going to continue to make waves in every single weight class. If that means after this fight I go up to 155 and make a title stake there, then I go in there and I fight a 55er and make a title stake there. I’ve done it at 45, I’ve come down to 35 to make some more noise, and I just think it makes me more of a lucrative fighter. (I’m) a guy that’s gonna be easier to promote, a guy that’s willing to step up and take chances, just like our boss Scott (Coker) did with Darrion (Caldwell) sending him out to Japan.”
That chance didn’t work out so well for Caldwell, but we’ll find out Saturday night if Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta is taking the right chances to advance in his MMA career.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Fedor vs. Bader” resides here at MMA Mania 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.