Bellator 259 will take place on Friday 21st May, headlined by a women’s featherweight championship bout between Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith. The two previously fought in 2016 whilst they were both contenders in the UFC. I was lucky enough to ask some questions to some of the fighters on the card. MMA UK talks to Brett Johns about how much it means to him to be a representative of Welsh MMA, how English fighter Fabian Edwards (the brother of UFC fighter Leon Edwards) is feeling about his upcoming fight, as well as how Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg and challenger Leslie Smith feel they have evolved since their first fight with each other.
Hey Brett, diolch yn fawr (thank you very much), you’ll always have the legacy of being the first Welshman to join the UFC, as a fellow Welshman it’s great to see you representing Welsh MMA on the world stage once again, how are you feeling about your Bellator debut and representing Welsh MMA once again?
Diolch yn fawr, thank you for the questions, yeah look being a Welshman here in this promotion, obviously we’ve got the likes of Lew Long, we’ve had previous fighters fighting for Bellator as well, and yeah like I said it’s an amazing time and I am finding ways of creating what you can call a fighter’s CV but my plan of attack is to get through this fight on Friday night, win and then look forward to doing something else. There’s no secret about what I want to do with the Bellator brand but what I would like to do is obviously, you know, we’ve had major promotions come to the British isles, we’ve had major promotions being fought in Belfast, being fought in Ireland, being fought in Scotland, being fought in England, we’ve never had that major promotion in Wales. We have fighters to do the job, we’re just waiting on that promotion to take that leap of faith for us guys and I see that being the likes of myself, Lew Long, Bobby Pallett, loads of different Welsh guys and also guys from around that area who would be able to fight for that promotion as well but to be the guy to lead that way and to be guy to be the main character in that story would be absolutely fantastic for me and the Welsh nation.
Hey Fabian, thank you for talking to us at MMA UK, you’ve had an amazing run, obviously you had the slight slip with the last fight which was a close decision but how are you feeling about showing us what The Assassin is all about in your next fight and representing the UK?
Honestly, you know I’m a confident guy so suffering that loss, yeah, obviously it knocked me because I’m passionate about this sport but it never knocked my confidence, I got in the gym, I’ve been working ever since, since then I’ve been in the best shape I’ve ever been in, I know a lot of people say I really am, so I’m just looking to go out there and just be free man, like I’m really looking forward to this fight.
Hey Leslie, thank you very much for your time, it’s been five years since your last fight with Cris, in your own words how have you changed as a fighter since your last fight with Cris?
I’ve changed so much as a fighter. Before I thought I was invincible, I honestly thought I was invincible, I really did. I’d never been dropped, I’ve never been dropped since then, I didn’t care about defence and that’s a pretty big part of the game, I mean Floyd Mayweather, people know him as the best ever and his game is mostly based on being defensive, you know, it’s an entire aspect of a fight that I hadn’t focused on before and so I have expanded my game and it has made me a much more dynamic fighter and it has given me a much greater understanding of where to take advantage of opportunities, how to create opportunities, I just see a lot more than I ever did before.
Hey Cris, this is Tom from MMA UK, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today, really appreciate it, it’s been 5 years since your last fight [with Leslie], when you defeated Leslie you went on to continue your legendary run, captured two more world titles, you are without a doubt one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the octagon but I was just wondering in your own words, since your first fight [with Leslie] how have you changed as a fighter?
If you keep watching my career, watching my fights, watching my last two fights, you see I’m improving, I feel happy, all my victories coming after this win, better grappling, better ju jitsu, training hard, I feel this way, if you watch my fights, you can see that.