Hear what Corey Anderson, Paul Daley and more had to say following their victories last Friday.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the virtual post-fight press conference for Bellator 257 last Friday. There, I was able to speak briefly with a number of fighters following their victories that night. The full videos from the press conference can be found on Bellator’s YouTube channel, but below you can read my conversations with the fighters I spoke to.
Jay Jay Wilson
In recent years there seems to have been this ‘boom’ of MMA out of New Zealand and out of the Oceanic region as a whole. Is representing where you come from something that matters to you and something that’s important to you as you go into each fight?
Y’know whenever I go into each fight, I always feel like not just my friends and family but my whole nation is behind me. New Zealand, we’re out here putting a big stamp on MMA and combat sports, so I’m really glad to be a part of that movement coming out of New Zealand right now.
At just 23 years old, you’re already competing at such a high-level, with a handful of victories under the Bellator banner already. Do you feel like you’re only just entering your prime, or do you think your prime is still way off; that you’re only getting started and have lots of room to grow and develop?
I’m only getting started. I still have lots of room to grow, 100%. I’m still only 23 years old, you don’t hit your physical prime until you’re 25/26. So, once I hit that physical prime you’re going to see what I’m really capable of. I’m still in preparation, I’m still getting ready for when the real work comes in.
Training for this fight in Las Vegas out of Xtreme Couture, how did that change your preparation for this fight, and how beneficial do you think it was now that you’ve got that victory?
There’s a lot of guys I want to thank out of Xtreme Couture, especially the head coach Dennis Davis for letting me live with him and his family for like, 2 months. I want to thank Jake Shields because he’s been taking the time to grapple a lot with me for this fight. And a huge thanks to Jake Ellenberger for taking time out from his family, coming and sparring with me even though he doesn’t have to. All my Hawaiian brothers: Puni, Bosom, Mahki. Tristan Kamaka is fighting tonight, good luck Tristan. Kai Kamaka, all the guys that have been helping me a tremendous amount, going with killers every day.
Fighting so early on the card, how did it feel to get that victory for Denmark with all of the Europeans watching back home?
Oh man, it’s superb. I hope all of my teammates back home from Arte Suave are having a beer on me right now. I can’t wait to see those guys and it feels amazing to represent Denmark in the best promotion, so I’m happy. I can’t wait to see my mom either.
Lance Gibson Jr
We spoke a couple of weeks ago where you promised a technical fight where you would ‘aim and fire’ when you were striking, and you certainly did that throughout the majority of the fight. Aside from not getting the finish, were there any notable differences in how the fight played out compared to how you may have imagined it in your head going into the fight?
Things are a little bit different when you’re in shinpads and whatnot. I felt some of the kicks I was throwing and in the first round I felt like I broke my toe, but they told me my toe is not broken so I’m all good. I banged up my foot a little bit but it’s all good, it’s all a part of the sport so I’ve just got to get better from it and aim and fire even more accurately and pick my shots when I see them go where they are. He was ducking to the right a bit and I needed to fake my left cross and then hit with the left hook, but I wasn’t committing fully to that, so that’s gonna make me better in the future.
Heavyweight divisions in general are divisions that tend to age a little more gracefully perhaps than some of the lower weight classes. There’s a lot of guys later in their career still competing at a high level. Here you are, knocking people out left, right and centre, still in your 20s. As well as having an incredible amount of skill, do you think that youthfulness, being fresh, being young and explosive, not having taken as much damage as some other people, do you think that sets you apart and makes you a force to be reckoned with?
Yeah, kind of, but I’d also say that the two names I said before they’ve been big… and they’re not the only ones, y’know I’ve had literally a whole team of people that I’m very grateful for to guide me along the way. So, I think that if I’m gonna use my youth as a credit and say that my youth is helpful in one way or the other, I’m gonna say that my youth is good because I get to be around people who’ve been in the game for a long time and can steer me away from things that they thought weren’t good or weren’t productive, I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you that I’m grateful to hear it from them. But that said, I love fighting, there’s nothing I love more than getting in there and getting down. So I’m really looking forward to making the most of the years ahead. If I wake up tomorrow and decide I don’t want to fight anymore, that’s my call and that’s what’s gonna happen. But, if I have another 10 – 12 years in the pipeline then I think I’ll make the most of that too.
You said before that you’re not sure how long you’ll be in the sport for or if you’ll be in the sport long enough for a rematch with Homasi. Normally, when we hear fighters say this they’re not knocking out ranked fighters inside of two rounds. What does it mean at this point in your career not only to be knocking out ranked guys, but showing the world that you are in fact one of the best welterweights in the world still?
Well, I’ve been saying that my whole career and that’s another reason I get dejected with sport because I’ve put on so many great fights with so many great finishes and I just don’t feel I get the respect. And I’m 38 years old, do I still want to put myself through this and not get the credit for it? That’s my attitude, if people start giving me the respect and I start appearing on cornflakes boxes and sh*t, doing all the interviews that everybody else is doing then I’ll stay in the game. Otherwise, I’ll take my two fights and I’ll go. I’ve given a lot to the sport, entertaining fights… this is another one of them that people will talk about for a while. Give me my respect, I’ll stay in the game, I’ll give you a few more years. If you don’t, then I’m gone.
In the lead-up to this fight, you talked briefly about your mindset and some of the mistakes you’d made in previous fights: coming in with a chip on your shoulder, perhaps being too angry. Talk about how that mindset has changed as you’ve transitioned to Bellator and how important that’s been for your success so far in Bellator.
The biggest thing that caused the change is children. Y’know, when I see my kids being born, when my first son was born I was like ‘I want to be here with my health and my mindset and be able to play with my son, I want to teach my son some things.’ I don’t want him to see his father coming home beat up, banged up, and he’s wondering ‘what happened, Daddy? Daddy got a boo boo.’ And then I got another child, my little girl was just born four or five weeks ago and it was like ‘Now we really gotta be serious. We gotta go out there… We can’t make no mistakes. The mindset gotta be bulletproof. We gotta train like the person I’m going against is just my opponent.’ I’m not gonna hurt him, but I gotta think about being sharp. I gotta keep my eyes on him, I gotta be aware of everything he does and make sure no mistakes happen. Then coming into Bellator, at the same time all this stuff is happening. My wife was pregnant when I signed with Bellator. We got here and it was like ‘Alright, new beginnings.’ Now we get to start all the way over, and all of the goals that we set, all of the things we said we wanted to do better so that we got a life for the children, make as much money as we can, we can do it in a new organisation, start fresh, with no bad blood with the promotion, the organisation, or the president. So, putting all of those things together, being here now, it’s amazing. I just love it, every time I step in the cage or go to the gym, I go there with a smile on my face and no animosity. Before, in the UFC, it was always…I was tweeting something, I was calling my manager, I was trying to get a hold of Dana or somebody to figure out what’s going on or why this is happening. I haven’t had to reach out to Scott. The only time I reach out is if I got a question during fight week and I reach out to Victoria. All of the people here are just wonderful to work with, it’s just amazing, I love everything about it. It helps my mindset stay clear and focused because I’m always happy while I’m here.