Bellator 198’s Emmanuel Sanchez: “I got the shine in Chicago”

Emmanuel Sanchez will face Sam Sicilia at Bellator 198
Emmanuel Sanchez Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator 198’s co-main event features Emmanuel Sanchez taking on former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia, with the winner moving within striking distance of champ Patricio Pitbull.

The second biggest mixed martial arts promotion has been doing an admirable job at recruiting new talent. Well new to Bellator, at least. Not to mention, some of the fights they have announced as of late have considerable intrigue. Jon Fitch and Paul Daley comes to mind.

Not to get lost in the recent bombardment of headlines, Emmanuel ‘El Matador’ Sanchez faces off against one of the newer faces in Bellator, Sam Sicilia, at Bellator 198. With a win, Sanchez would firmly position himself as the #1 contender to Patricio Pitbull’s featherweight title. Sanchez (16–3) was last seen submitting former champ Daneil Straus, and has won three straight against championship caliber fighters.

Cageside Press sat down with ‘El Matador’ to talk about fighting in Chicago, training at Roufusport, and more.

Fighting in your old stomping grounds sounds like it should be a walk in the park. Yet some fighters can’t rise to the occasion. Others, like Emmanuel Sanchez, relish the opportunity; so much so he is fighting for the second time in Chicago in as many years. “I got the shine in Chicago,” says Sanchez.

“I got to fight in Chicago last year when we [Bellator] came and it was a great experience. I love fighting and I love Chicago.” Sanchez added.

‘El Matador’ has won an impressive six out of his last seven fights, his only loss in that stretch was a close split decision to Daniel Weichel. In his most recent outing at Bellator 184 Sanchez submitted former two-time Bellator featherweight champ Daniel Straus in the third round via tiangle choke. An eye-opening performance by all accounts, but was Sanchez satisfied? “I was and I wasn’t, there’s always room for improvement” said the Roufusport fighter.

“I felt I won pretty much every minute of the fight, I definitely won every round and dominated him [Straus] in every position until I finished him. I wanted to prove that I’m a champion too and I will hold that belt one day as well.”

If ‘El Matador’ keeps racking up impressive victory after impressive victory it’s just a matter of time before he gets a crack at the aforementioned Pitbull. But the champion notwithstanding, who are some of the other guys in this division that ‘El Matador’ has been keeping an eye on?

“Some of these young bucks coming up got some shine,” said Sanchez. “[Aaron] Pico, James Gallagher, there’s a bunch of young guys coming up, I’m young too, but they’re even younger than me. Those guys still got three, four, or even five years ahead of them before they’re at my level.”

With veterans like Sanchez and recent additions to the 145lb division like Juan Archuleta coupled with a steady stream of up and coming featherweights, Bellator may have a better stable of future 45ers than their larger rival.

It makes no difference to ‘El Matador’ who he faces in future bouts, mainly because he trains day in and day out with absolute savages at Roufusport in Milwaukee, Wis. “Duke is the best in the business, hands down,” said Sanchez regarding head coach and striking guru Duke Roufus.

“All of us here at Roufusport put in work, me, Paul Felder, Punk, whoever. There’s guys and girls here who train every day alongside us that no one has even really heard of yet, but they will. Duke welcomes anyone who walks through the door and its family here.”

Whether Sanchez is putting rounds in at Roufusport or he is fighting in his own backyard of Chicago, one thing’s for certain, with a win against Sam Silica at Bellator 198 ‘El Matador’ will have his shot to ole’ the title away from Pitbull.