Bellator 237: “Fedor vs. Rampage” takes place Sun., Dec. 29, 2019 at Saitama Super Arena in Japan, airing Dec. 28 on Paramount Network. The Heavyweight main event between Fedor Emelianenko (38-6, 1 NC) and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (38-13) is tailor made for fans in Japan and abroad nostalgic for the era of PRIDE Fighting Championships.
The match preceding it was scheduled to be a 160 lb. rematch between “Smooth” Benson Henderson (28-8) and Michael Chandler (19-5), but Henderson withdrew due to injury so “Da Gun” Sidney Outlaw (14-3) stepped in to take his place. Outlaw is currently on a nine fight win streak including a victory over Roger Huerta in his Bellator return.
Although Outlaw has taken 50% of his wins (seven of 14) by submission, it will be a challenge to get Michael Chandler to the ground. “Iron” Mike hits like the proverbial Mack truck and is a former NCAA Division I All American who can use his wrestling both offensively and defensively to impose his will on his foes.
Outlaw recently spoke with MMA Mania about his upcoming fight with Chandler while also giving a brutally honest assessment of his last bout with Roger Huerta.
“I wasn’t satisfied at all. It should have been a different fight, but you know what? That fight made me a more intelligent fighter and better you know, and more humble on everything (including) the nutrition part. I can be better, and this is my opportunity.”
Given just how big that opportunity is, Outlaw is surprisingly demure about how getting this opportunity in Japan came together.
“They just texted me ‘Hey! Do you want to take this fight?’ I wrote back and said ‘Yes.’ I sent it off and that’s it. That’s so boring! I wish I could make it a little bit exciting but that’s the truth. That’s exactly how it happened and that’s how it’s normally always going to happen when it comes to me.”
Despite being on a nine-fight win streak and having an outstanding skill set to go along with it, “boring” is exactly how Outlaw describes himself. In a fight game with so many loud braggarts and so much hyperbole it’s honestly refreshing to hear that from someone.
“Like I’m a very very boring person. You’ve gotta excuse me if you don’t feel the energy or the vibe, because I’m ‘cutting weight tired’ like you know, I’m rushing everything and I have a lot of other stuff I gotta get done (before Japan) so um, yeah.”
For a guy who vows he’s boring, Outlaw is certainly not bored by the prospect of facing the three-time Lightweight champion of Bellator.
“I’m very excited! Like I’m a fan of the guy and he’s awesome, so, shit it’s awesome. I’m very very excited, very excited.”
I asked Outlaw if he could look past being “a fan of the guy” and not get mesmerized by him during the fight. Outlaw says it changes nothing, nor will he change anything about himself.
“I’m gonna be a fan everywhere in life! I’m just, I’m a fan of the guy, and who I am is who I am inside the cage — I just know how to hide it. People get this confused. You can tell I’m a fan, I am a fan, so I’ve got to him nothing but respect, show him I will give him nothing but the utmost respect, and give him ALL of my respect like I’ve been doing.”
Now the picture is starting to become clearer. For Outlaw, “respect” is also code for training like never before to beat the person he admires so much.
“I took the Roger Huerta fight on my worst day, so now I get to prepare myself for one of the best fighters out there, and that’s about it.”
One thing Chandler and all of Outlaw’s opponents need to respect about him is the striking. Despite only one knockout in 14 wins, Outlaw vows he’s very dangerous on the feet.
“Yeah everybody’s always sleeping on my hands. I mean they... AGH! That’s one thing I got that’s like ‘Shit — you’ll see, you’ll see.’ I have hands, it just sucks because I’m SO good on the ground. My life was never like easy so I had to depend one thing, but now I can open up the box and work on other stuff you know?”
Fun fact — if you look up Sidney Outlaw on Tapology his college is listed as “school of pain” and his head coach is “Jesus Christ.” That’s what he means when he says his life wasn’t easy (he was even homeless), but now that it’s getting easier, everything’s starting to flow.
“I’m able to focus on what’s necessary like the hands and my footwork, I’m able to focus (on) all that. So this is awesome. I’m really excited.”
When it comes to flowing, Outlaw says the best advice he got about mixed martial arts came from Thiago “Pitbull” Alves.
“At the end of the day I just remember like, I think Thiago Pitbull (said it), the guy, the man, the legend. He told me something like ‘Bro at the end of the day it’s not that complicated. It’s a fight.’ I’m like ‘Wow! Okay!’ At the end of the day we do all this stuff but it’s still a fight.”
As much as Outlaw would like to enjoy the trip to Japan for this bout, Chandler is getting his undivided attention along with all of his respect.
“Sucky timing! Hehe. Sucky timing but other than that, yeah it’s perfect. I’ll probably take some opportunities to look around and stuff, but I’ll probably just focus on the fight. Whatever comes to mind.”
Perhaps “Zen” would be a better nickname for Outlaw than “Da Gun.” His approach to fighting and to life is best described as “let it happen and it will all work out.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 237: “Fedor vs. Rampage” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
Bellator 237’s main card will start at 10:00 p.m. ET on Paramount Network. MMAmania.com will deliver results and play-by-play for the televised Bellator MMA card HERE.