Bellator 225 goes down inside Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., this weekend (Sat., Aug. 24, 2019), featuring a main event do-over between Matt Mitrione (13-6, 1 NC) and Sergei Kharitonov (28-6, 2 NC) after their initial encounter ended in 15 seconds because of a foul.
Bantamweight fighter Ricky Bandejas hasn’t had any fights end via low blow, but his last bout at Bellator 222 didn’t last much longer when Patrick Mix got both hooks in and tapped him out with a rear-naked choke. For Bandejas it marked the first two-fight losing streak of a career that spans back to 2014. He’ll have a chance to stop that slide against “The Turk” Ahmet Kayretli in Bridgeport. He’s a 30-year-old fighter who stands 5’7,” making his Bellator debut in this bout, and like his opponent, his last fight ended when he submitted to a rear-naked choke. Prior to that loss, Kayretli had picked up three straight wins in LFA.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Bandejas about the formula for turning things around on Saturday night after the first back-to-back losses of his professional career.
“Ah, you know it does stink but it’s reality. You’re in a sport where you’re easily forgotten. You lose two or three fights and people think you should just hang it up. But, I’m just training harder than ever. I’m in the gym harder than ever and just trying to get mentally prepared for this fight to go out there and come back with a dominant win.”
At times fighters will look for excuses why they lost — blaming everything from the venue to the altitude to the media presence disrupting their training — Bandejas blames only himself.
“Yeah, I haven’t lost two of anything in any sport in my life, let alone fighting that I make my career. I did change up things a lot. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s my own fault. I trained less than like five hours a week.”
If that low number astounds you, remember Bandejas only lost one fight in a span of five years before Bellator 214.
“You know this whole last month I’ve been in the gym twice a day. I’ve been putting in more hours in one day than I’ve done in my whole past career weekly. So I’m hoping when it’s this hard I’m gonna go out there and it’s (going to be) like second nature — I’m going to be dominant.”
“I ended up relocating to Coconut Creek for ATT. Nick’s doing good, I know everybody at the gym’s good. I left on good terms. I talked to Nick this morning. I’ve juggled with this idea for quite some time, but when you’re winning you don’t think about pulling the trigger and actually changing up what you want to change up. You kind of just assume that everything’s working.”
Before anybody gets the wrong idea, Bandejas wants you to know the whole thing was like EPMD — just business ... nothing personal.
“The biggest misconception is I don’t want people thinking I left because I lost twice in a row. This is something I was always thinking about and I think this is going to help. I just needed some change, you know, I was stuck in a rut and that’s it. I’ve come here (to ATT) and I can start fresh. Let’s hope I can rattle off a kill streak.”
Kayretli won’t be a pushover, though. He’s a 12-fight mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran with a 9-3 record, only slightly less than Bandejas at 11-3, and 67 percent of his wins (six of nine) come via knockout.
“Ah, he’s tough man. They said he has like 200 combat fights or something, like kickboxing and things like that, but overall I just think I’m the better fighter. You know it’s MMA, I think I mix it up better, and I think I’m going to take advantage of all of that.”
Does Bandejas think Kayretli will make any excuses with a loss about having to fly in from Turkey just to take this fight? Is it ever a valid excuse?
“Yeah, you know I thought coming into this sport I would love to travel far, but when you’re fighting and cutting weight and you got the nerves and you’re staying in a hotel (it affects you).”
So Bandejas may have “home field advantage” in Bridgeport on Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean he’s taking anything for granted, especially in a Bantamweight division where some of the world’s best fighters are today.
“Absolutely. You make one milli-second decision, you turn left or turn right, and at this level with these guys everybody’s so elite and so good that you make one wrong move, that’s it, it’s over. It can be the first minute, it can be the last minute, you know? There’s multiple fights where it plays out like that.”
Bandejas knows it’s going to be a long climb to get back into title contention at 135 pounds, but he’s prepared to start at Bellator 225 and keep working hard until he’s in that conversation again.
“I’m a realist. I think it’ll be a little bit. I think if I get two dominant wins, possibly three, but definitely dominant wins, I think that puts me back in the mix. Like I always say, the title is something I’d love to win, but my biggest concern is that (next fight). MMA is like a puzzle to me. I’ve got to figure it out so I can go back out there and show up on every fight and not have a half-ass showing.”
Watch Bellator 225 to see if Ricky Bandejas solved the puzzle against Ahmet Kayretli.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 225: “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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