Bellator MMA’s Joe Warren may be one of the most underrated two-division champions out there in mixed martial arts. Yes, it’s a rather small and exclusive club to belong to, but having accomplished the feat in Bellator during a period that it wasn’t getting the attention it is today, the “Baddest Man on the Planet” too often gets overlooked. Friday night in Thackerville, Oklahoma at Bellator 181, Warren will be looking to get back on track after a title fight loss against Eduardo Dantas late last year. Opposite him in the cage that night will be rising Bellator prospect Steve Garcia. Without question, Warren is fired up and ready to get back to work.
Warren spoke to Cageside Press leading in to his bantamweight scrap with Garcia about Bellator coming of age, the fight Friday night, and more.
Warren, who has spent most of his MMA career in Bellator, was a person whose thoughts on the promotion’s big show (or shows, as they promoted it) in New York last month we certainly wanted to hear. So what was his appraisal of Bellator 180/NYC, and how things have changed for the company?
“I’ve been with Bellator, I’m part of the Bellator family since the first season. It’s an honor to see Bellator grow and be part of the family” he told us. “I remember Bellator fighting outside places and now we’re in Madison Square Garden, selling it out, having pay-per-views. Scott Coker, I’ve been part of both organizations, so like you know my step dad did a good job, but my new dad is getting the job done. He keeps raising the bar, moving the needle and its an honor to be a part of the organization still.”
It seems as if Bellator is at a turning point, getting close to being right there with the UFC, especially given some of the recent signings of late.
“I always said that this is where the cool kids fight. Been saying that for years” Warren said in regards to Bellator’s position in the MMA world. “The great thing about Bellator is they’re on Spike. Spike and Viacom, they are first class organizations and they have their eyes on the skies with Bellator. They’ve been moving that needle, they’ve been doing impressive things. That’s just a fun thing to be part of. You can definitely tell with that last fight you know, it took a step up, another step up, we moved another step up, it was a big PPV. It felt like a big show.”
“It was a definite turning point for Bellator and Spike. It shows that we can be a competitive PPV organization also.”
Prior to that event, Bellator MMA announced they had signed veteran play-by-play announcers Mauro Ranallo and Mike Goldberg, of Pride and UFC fame, respectively. Warren, who has done some commentary of his own, said of the moves that “I’m happy that Goldie is there, he brings so much credibility to the stage. Having Goldie and Chael [Sonnen] and these guys, it just brings the credibility of color commentating to the base, to Bellator.
They’re the best behind the mic that there is.”
Between fighter signings and personnel moves like Goldie and Ranallo, Bellator CEO Scott Coker has been making a lot of waves. So what has his impact been, in Warren’s approximation?
“Scott Coker brings credibility to Bellator’s image and brand” Warren suggested. “We have the best supporting cast there is, Viacom and Spike behind us. They go out and they get the best in the business, Scott Coker and say, ‘just move this needle, make sure Bellator is a big as you want it to be’ and they took off his handcuffs and he’s doing it.”
“Every fight gets bigger, every show gets a little more dramatic” he added. “We have new fighters joining the family every week, names that people are used to hearing, fights that people want to watch and Scott Coker brings that to the table. He brings the entertainment to the sport like they used to do in Japan. It’s more than just a sporting event, it’s entertainment.”
“I think we gained a lot of the credibility of the MMA world with having Scott Coker as the leader of our organization.”
Warren made his debut in the sport late, turning pro in 2009 after a storied career in wrestling, including gold in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2006 World Championships. Now forty, what keeps Joe Warren going?
For Warren, avoiding the injury bug, supporting his family, and competing in fights that mean something are key. “I believe after my last loss, we went back to the drawing board and said ‘how did this happen?'” Warren explained. “I’ve only been injured one time and that was last year; the Darrion Caldwell fight in the first round I dislocated my knee cap and tore my MCL. I couldn’t even stand up; you know that was an unpredictable thing. MMA is the most unpredictable thing in the world. You never know whats going to happen in there. That’s healed, everything’s fine. I won two fights, after that I got the opportunity to get that title fight. I was fighting a lot that year. What motivates me is my kids, I’m a family man and what I do, I take of them by beating peoples a***s in that Bellator cage. I’m not satisfied with just fighting in a cage, I want it to mean something.”
“I’m used to being at the top of the stage, it just motivated me that I’m a different fighter than I was before, re-energized, new techniques” he continued. “Like I said you’re only as good as your last fight and if you can evolve, and I can evolve. I’m a coachable athlete and we changed it up a little bit. It took some time and if you think you can run your mouth about my age you better watch your f***ing mouth, because this old man will come around the corner and beat your a**, and that’s whats going to happen this year. I’m focused on one thing, getting my belt back in Bellator and I’ve done this three times.”
“It’s a very comfortable situation for me. Not for a lot of other people, but I’m right back to where we started. I’m faster stronger and more violent than I’ve ever been” he added.
On the next page, we talk Bellator 181 opponent Steve Garcia, working the booth, avenging losses and more.