Bellator 226: “Bader vs. Kongo” takes place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this weekend (Sat., Sept. 7, 2019), featuring “champ-champ” Ryan Bader (27-5) defending his Heavyweight title for the first time against the streaking Cheick Kongo (30-10-2), who is looking for his ninth win in a row.
Earlier in the evening, the opening round of the Featherweight Grand Prix gets underway. Unfortunately for “Dream Killer” Gaston Bolanos (5-1) his bout with Daniel Carey (5-3) is not part of that tournament, although he’s still being featured on the televised card. That’s most likely because Bolanos floored Nathan Stolen with a left hook on the live broadcast of a Bellator show just a few months ago. He may not be taking part in the Grand Prix, but with all five wins (100 percent) coming by knockout, he’s still a fighter to be watched.
Bolanos recently spoke with MMAmania.com about coming up with one exciting finish after another in all of his televised fights.
“Oh man, I’m always trying to get better man. Not just as a striker, not just as a grappler, but all around. I keep trying to find ways to win and to always have the answer for what my opponents are bringing to the table. That’s what I believe makes me a more complete martial artist.”
In fact, despite being a knockout artist thus far, Bolanos’ entire philosophy as a fighter is to never over-train in any one discipline.
“I’m always trying to find that balance between grappling and striking and bringing my striking into MMA. I believe that’s what’s allowed me to come up with such diverse finishes inside a Bellator cage.”
How then could such a dynamic exciting fighter be left out of the Featherweight Grand Prix?
“If anything it makes me kind of happy that I’m THAT GUY that maybe I’m not in the tournament, but I’m respected enough that I’m still opening up this main card — so everybody has to be watching me first, and everybody has to feel my energy first, before everybody else gets to go on.”
The man has a point (and a hard elbow). Still, I wanted to know if Bolanos had heard anything about possibly coming in as an injury replacement for the Grand Prix.
“No, I have not talked to them about being an alternate yet. Whatever they want to do, they can come talk to me after this fight or before, we’ll see what happens. You know there are 16 people in this tournament (so) there’s a big chance that anybody could get hurt. Anybody could not continue you know? MMA is a wicked sport. It’s unforgiving. Anything can happen to anybody.”
That’s all speculation for another day. Here and now the focus has to be on Daniel Carey.
“He’s gonna bring it, man! He’s a really good opponent. I believe that me and him match up really well to start the main card at SAP Center. I believe that our styles are not similar, but this match up is very well put together by Rich Chou and Mike Kogan when it comes to starting the main card the popular way — the way it needs to be started. I think me and him will bring it all the way. Daniel’s really tough. You’ve seen my finishes, he’s got some finishes under his belt as well, so I think it’s going to be what this card deserves on September 7th.”
Carey is a man looking to rebound from a knockout loss at Bellator 210 though, which makes him that much more dangerous when put under such a big spotlight.
“Definitely, man. I have a big target on my back right now. The more finishes I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been on the main card, the more these guys want to come and take what’s mine. So yeah, I believe he’s hungry, he knows he’s got a good opportunity on his hands. We’ve been training properly, we’ve been doing everything we need to do to get ready for Daniel, and I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
Does having a nickname like “The Dream Killer” make the target that much bigger?
“I’m sure man. You gotta love your fans, and you got to love your haters even more, because they’re the ones pushing you to be better. You’ve got to prove them wrong every time, so that’s what drives me you know. Not only my fans — I appreciate every single one of them — but also my haters. I’ve been opening main cards, I’ve been knocking people out, (so) everybody wants a piece of what ‘The Dream Killer’ is.”
How does one get a nickname like “The Dreamkiller” in the first place?
“That came from my coach. Back in my training when I was really young, smaller, not (even) a Featherweight kid. All these guys would try to come and prove a point at the gym or do things that they shouldn’t be doing, go too hard with certain people. So my coach would put me in front of them and yeah I would basically kill their dreams of whatever they were trying to accomplish on that given training session. So yeah that’s where ‘The Dreamkiller’ came from — and it stuck!”
There’s no doubt Bolanos will try to make it stick again on Saturday night, and continue to deliver Bellator highlight reel moments in the process.
“I’m just trying to get better man. Yeah I’m picking up a lot of things but I’m trying to get better, become more well rounded with my striking, more well rounded with my grappling, and blend the two together — which is where this sport is so intricate.”
If Gaston Bolanos gets any better than he is now the whole division is in big trouble.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 226: “Bader vs. Kongo” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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