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Derek Campos looks to erase ‘bitter taste’ of defeat with a big win over Daniel Straus

Derek Campos interview

Bellator 226: “Bader vs. Kongo” airs from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Sat., Sept. 7, 2019. In the main event, Ryan Bader (27-5) will defend his Heavyweight title for the first time versus Cheick Kongo (30-10-2), who is looking for his ninth straight win and first world Heavyweight championship.

There’s a lot of pride on the line in the headliner, but there’s also a lot of money on the line in the $1 million Featherweight Grand Prix. Two fighters who would dearly love to cash that check are Derek Campos (19-9) and Daniel Straus (26-8).

Straus, a former 145-pound champion, bounced back from a horrific motorcycle accident to score a first round submission win in his first fight after a nearly two-year layoff. Straus claimed to be less than 100 percent in that match so how good might he be now that he’s fully prepared? Win or lose, Campos is always prepared. Although he’s currently on a three-fight skid, he goes to war in every bout and has ”Fight of the Year” contenders on a regular basis. This is a huge opportunity to prove he’s still a threat to the entire division.

MMAmania.com recently spoke with Campos about facing a former world champion like Straus in an opening round bout with so much at stake for both men.

“Oh, I’m excited! I’m just ready to get in there and let my hands go and use all my abilities that I have and just beat him, break him, wherever I have to in the fight, and just take him to deep waters. I know he’s relentless, I know he’s tough like that, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

It will be very difficult to break a man who had to learn how to walk again just to be able to step in the cage and fight ... and Campos knows it.

“I think it just shows the drive and the will that he has. He’s definitely not to be counted out, even though he had that horrible accident. In my mind I’m preparing for the best Daniel Straus yet.”

It would be foolish for Straus to think anything less of Campos as well given how determined he is to get back in the win column.

“Absolutely! You know I think that’s what separates him from the rest of the pack and what has made him a champion before is that he doesn’t underestimate anybody, he doesn’t take anybody lightly, and he prepares for the worst.”

Out of those recent losses in the Bellator cage, which one frustrates Campos the most?

“The (split) decision with Sam Sicilia, that left a bitter taste in my mouth. You know that’s my fault, that’s my fault for even letting it go to the judges. The one against (Pedro) Carvalho, you know that’s just different circumstances. Honestly it just wasn’t my night, no excuses, he was the better man (and) the more game opponent. He had my number that night, but if we had to do it again, I guarantee it would be a different outcome.”

If it sounds like Campos is naming who he’d like to face in the second round of the tournament with a win on Saturday, you’re not far off.

“Obviously I would like to get after Sicilia or Carvalho but all the guys are (good). I would look forward to a fight against (Emmanuel) Sanchez, (Tywan) Claxton, I mean any of the guys I would look forward to a scrap against. They’re all game opponents, they’re all thoroughbreds you know?”

It’s hard to argue given how much 145-pound talent has been put into the field of 16.

“I think it’s amazing. I mean it’s just an honor to be a part of it, and to have gotten the call and the invite to compete in it against the rest of the Featherweight division, the best guys in the Featherweight division for Bellator and the world, it’s just an honor.”

Speaking of that division, Campos spent his Bellator career fighting at Lightweight until the Sam Sicilia fight. How is the weight cut treating him now a couple of fights in?

“I’m just changing up a few things in my diet, and just trying to put the emphasis back on the strength training, strength and conditioning. It’s a little different but I feel good. It’s not too hard when I’m just eating clean and sticking to my diet. It feels natural but at the same time I know I’ve got a little bit to cut. This morning I woke up at 156 and I’m feeling lean and mean, I’m feeling strong.”

Now that he’s fully adjusted to that cut, Campos feels he’s on track to have one of his best performances ever against Straus at Bellator 226.

“Overall when it comes to technique, that’s where I’m trying to excel. I’m trying to explore different parts of my martial arts game. Primarily I’ve always been a brawler, I’ve always tried to utilize my wrestling, but going forward I’m going to mix it up and hit these guys with everything that I’ve got — elbows, knees, kicks. I’ll show the world come September 7th what exactly I’m talking about.”

Confidence is high for Campos heading to SAP Center’s vaunted “Shark Tank” tomorrow night. Even his training partners believe he just can’t lose.

“They’re all just complimenting how strong I feel at this weight. It’s a good feeling when you’ve got your training partners and comrades telling you that you are ON POINT. I believe I’m on point and on track to make a statement at 145 in this division going forward.”

The Featherweight Grand Prix is his opportunity to make that statement, and Straus is the man he can make it with in a big first round win.

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.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.