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The Unyielding Spirit of Champions: A Tale of Bellator 301

Chicago – Though most of the interactions were cordial, the excitement generated by the main card combatants of Bellator 301 was palpable. It’s said that press conferences are where the fight begins. Let’s look at each of these match ups and some of the verbal blows thrown.

Amosov vs Jackson: A South Beach Showdown

Champ and Challenger exchange pleasantries. Photo by Lucas Noonan

I asked the champion about the fabled South Florida rivalry between ATT and Kill Cliff FC (formerly the Blackzillians). Specifically, I wanted to know if there was any additional pressure because of this history? The champ said, “No, it’s just sport. Sport and a little bit business.” Because there is one sauna in the area; he runs into many of the ATT athletes there and feels they are, “Same, like me.”

While the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East, war still rages in Amosov's home country of Ukraine. He said “ I think about the situation at home all the time. It helps me train. When I think of the front liners, this is not hard.” He added, that his family is his motivation. The situation in his home country makes family everything to him.

Jason Jackson broke onto the scene in the Ultimatum Fighter when the Blackzillians faced off vs ATT. This is vehicle Kamaru Usman used to enter the UFC. With a win, it’s somewhat of a full-circle moment due to Amosov's ATT ties. One benefit his team has is that former Interim champ Logan Storely, faced Yaroslav twice. Jackson said, “Logan told me everything. Plus, I have been studying him for years. I want to compete against the best to be the best.”

Jason entered the room with a Bellator hoodie, matching sweats, and work boots on. The ambitious Jamaican still holds a 9-5 position while training. His thoughts regarding MMA is that, It’s work, every day. He said he showed up looking like he did because it’s another day at work. Jackson does not take the opportunity lightly as he wants to take the title back to Kill Cliff FC.

Sergio Pettis vs Patchy Mix: U.N.I.T.Y.

A unification bout between Bantamweight Champions. Photo by Lucas Noonan

Patchy Mix captured both the Bellator Grand Prix title along with the Interim Bantamweight title when he knocked out Raufeon Stots with a knee. That affords him the opportunity to unify titles against the full champion, Sergio Pettis. Though defending champ, Pettis comes in once again, as an underdog. Both men feel as if this is one of the toughest fights they ever had. One reason they know that the bout will be challenging is that they have worked together in the past. Mix said “I’m hungry and this will be my best performance to date.”

Pettis considers himself a late bloomer. The champion has also been brave enough to share his challenges with mental health. He wants to be an example to those out there that may feel like him. With anxiety and the superstar shadow of his older brother Anthony Pettis looming over him, Sergio said he had to find a way to come out of the darkness. What some may view as a weakness Pettis sees as a benefit. He believes his anxiety drives him to train harder.

The champ said Mix is a “strikers nightmare.” He mentioned that it was a long training session whenever Mix got his back. Patchy on the other hand is well aware that the champ has only been submitted once. He sat in awe as Pettis put on a striking master class with legendary striker Patricio Pitbull in his last title defense.

Another training advantage Mix has is the time he's spent with Rob Font. The New England Cartel member bested Sergio in his hometown of Milwaukee WI. Mix also praised the work he got from Merab Dvalishvili who is a cardio monster. Patchy said he felt like he had 7-8 championship fights in training alone because of the rounds with Merab.

Last time Mix was in position to win the Bellator title he fell short in a spirited fight with Juan Archuleta. What would be different this time around? One, is his drive to hold the undisputed title. After besting Stots he went back to the work rebranding himself. He said he approaches the fight like “I’m 0-0 looking to go 1-0.”

Patchy credits losing to Archuleta as what's made him the fighter he is today. When he lost in his first bid to become champion, he focused too much on getting it to the ground. This time he plans to show that he’s the best in the world and capable of winning in multiple ways.

Stots vs Sabatello II: Battle for Chi-Town Love

The last time these two faced each other, it was Stots first title defense and Sabatello was undefeated in Bellator. The contest ended in a split decision victory for Stots who promises this time it’s will be a clean kill.

Stots is a two-time DII National Wrestling Champion. Yet, it was Danny who controlled the fight when it got to the ground. This time he made adjustments for wrestling. He got some kids(wrestlers), got back to the basics.” Sabatello claims Stots heard him say this on the MMA Hour. One point Stots made was that Danny may have taken him down, but did nothing in that position. Where the one take down he secured, Raefeon bloodied Danny with strikes.

Last time it was five-round affair, this time it’s only three. Stots believes that is a clear advantage for him. So much so that he pointed out the silence of the loquacious fighter representing ATT when he mentioned this.

Danny kept speaking about "Supa" suffering a knock out. Stots mentioned he was unconcious, so there was nothing he could do. He feels the only way to win against him is to is to finish the Nigerian. Then he told Sabatello "You made a conscious decision to give up" referring to Danny tapping in his most recent bout vs. Magomed Magomedov.

Sabatello proclaimed time and again that he believes he won the first encounter. When asked what he will do differently he said he will dominate him again a little more. He plans to increase his volume and do more with his control time. He believes he’s gotten exponentially better and has superior striking to accompany his grappling prowess. To do this in Chicago is a dream come true for the hometown native.

One battle both had that will be settled before the fight begins is who has the support of the city. Stots said, “I think the people of your hometown hate you.” To which Sabatello replied “Chicago doesn’t hate me, they love me.” One person Sabatello does not love is “Supa.” After the fight is over, Danny feels he will always hate Raufeon Stots.

McKee vs Outlaw: Aggressive Bromance

Mercenary and Da Gun. Photo by Lucas Noonan

In this Marquee Matchup, both fighters had an opportunity to be in the Lightweight Grand Prix but various things kept them out. Now they hope to be reinserted since Usman Nurmagomedov tested positive for a banned substance after his most recent fight with Brent Primus. This is the Mercenary’s longest layoff. Not believing in ring rust, AJ feels the time has been well spent honing his craft while out of competition. He mentioned that it was an honor to be back in the cage and he plans to take people out as he’s been working on his wrestling. This time away has kept him hungry. His father encouraged him to keep praying and trusting God. Then he saw all these things happen for him.

The man across the cage from him is also a God-Fearing believer embodying the spirit of Philippians 4:13. He mentioned that if people want to fly, they can, as long as God gives them the ability to do it.

From losing a shot at the title due to a Pitbull injury, to being knocked out by his replacement Tofiq Musayev, Da Gun, has been through a rough patch. When I asked what drives him to keep fighting he mentioned God blessing him to be there. It was his help through all the ups and downs that allow him to continue. He spoke of how much he loves the competition. To him it’s not really fighting but an “Aggressive Bromance.” A term that will forever be a part of the MMA lexicon.

Pitbull vs Shabliy – King Without a Crown

Fighting for Glory. Photo by Lucas Noonan

Both Patricky and Alexander stated that this fight is for the Bellator Lightweight title in their eyes. However, the Lightweight picture in this promotion remains a mystery. There are rumors that the bout between Nurmagomedov and Primus will be rebooked following Usman’s six-month suspension. Pitbull feels the fight between he and Shabliy should have a belt attached to it. In the press conference Patricky said;” This is the title fight. It’s bad for all fighters in Bellator. He should be stripped.”

The King of KO’s believes he is just the man to put an end to Alexander’s unbeaten streak that dates back to 2016. When asked how does he do it, the BJJ black belt had two words, “My power.”

"Peresvet’s" unbeaten run includes four under the Bellator banner. Not only does he look to make it five but he aims to do this by taking out his second former champ. He wants to do more than beat him in this Grand Prix semifinal but he wants to stop him. When asked how, the Russian referred to similarities between Patricky & Tofiq. “We have a plan but they’re behind the curtain.” Regardless of the opponent, Shabliy works his wrestling along with striking. We will have to wait until both men step from behind the curtain, into the cage, to see what strategy Alexander and his ATT coaches have devised.


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