Bellator 215’s Amber Leibrock: “All Respect to the UFC, but Bellator is Where It’s At for the Featherweights”

Amber Leibrock
Amber Leibrock Credit: Dave Mandel/

Amber Leibrock is campaigning hard on behalf of the women’s featherweight division ahead of her showdown with Amanda Bell at Bellator 215.

When Amber Leibrock enters the cage at Bellator 215 this Friday, it will be just her sixth professional MMA fight. Yet while young in the sport, Leibrock could very well be a big part of the future for the women’s featherweight division. In short, the division is fractured, split between the UFC and Bellator, not to mention Invicta FC, Leibrock’s former home. In other, deeper weight classes, that wouldn’t be an issue. At featherweight, it means a couple of the biggest names are in the UFC and Invicta, but the bulk of the talent is in Bellator.

Leibrock is clearly aware of that, and to her, Bellator is where it’s at for the featherweights. She spoke to Cageside Press ahead of her Bellator 215 fight against Amanda Bell this Friday. We started with her last bout, where she came up short against former title challenger Arlene Blencowe. On the takeaways from that fight, Leibrock said one was simply “let go.”

“Let go of the arm-bar. It’s alright, let go. Which I guess is kind of a metaphor for life. If sh*t gets tough, just let go.” That wasn’t the only lesson learned however.

“You have to believe in yourself. Even the slightest bit of doubt or moment of doubt is going to cause hesitation.” Leibrock continued. “For me, I think I gave the fight a little bit too much respect. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, because Arlene is a great opponent. I know we had a heated weigh-in, but that didn’t take away from anything I felt about her as a fighter or a person.” That’s part of the game, she suggested. Selling the fight. “But I think the best thing I took away from it is just to believe in yourself. I worked really hard to get up to this point. I need to understand that I am where I am, and I deserve to be here.”

“Even though these girls may have more experience than me, I’ve earned my right to be in the cage with them,” she summarized.

“Her and I are going to put on the fight of the night. And I know that we’re going to show everybody that this is what featherweights do, this is what we’re here for.”

Opponent Amanda Bell is one of those fighters with more experience. “I’ve known who Amanda was since before I started fighting,” Leibrock told us. “I know who she is, I know what she does, I know what she brings to the table, and I’m excited. We barely, barely missed each other in Invicta, and if I would have stayed in Invicta any longer, that probably would have been the next fight.”

While Bell has been off for over a year, Leibrock doesn’t feel it gives her any advantage. “If anything I think it makes her hungrier,” she said. Leibrock can relate, having sat out all of 2017. “At least it did for me. Being out for so long made me want to get in there even more.”

What she’s expecting from a veteran she clearly respects is “a three round war.” Not to mention “a tough fight. I’m expecting there to be a lot of fireworks, I’m expecting the fight to touch everything. I’m expecting it to touch striking, jiu-jitsu, grappling, the fence, the cage work, I’m expecting the fight to go a little bit of everywhere.”

“I know she wants to wrestle, or that’s what she’s been saying. I know when she fought Megan [Anderson], she caught a few of hands in the face, she instantly went to wrestling.” Leibrock, however, said she’s “fully prepared” should Amanda Bell fall back on her wrestling instincts.

“Her and I are going to put on the fight of the night. And I know that we’re going to show everybody that this is what featherweights do, this is what we’re here for.” Leibrock, quite frankly, is pushing hard for the featherweights to get respect. To be known for their excitement. “That’s what I aim for in all of my fights. We’re exciting fighters, and everybody needs to tune in.”

She also knows that a big win could put her one fight away from a title shot. But more than that, she wants fans to know that “the featherweights are here, we’re banging. You’ve get me, you’ve got Julia [Budd], you’ve got Amanda, you’ve got Janay [Harding], you’ve got Megan, you’ve got all these girls who are killing it at featherweight. All we need is more people to just tune in, and we need to know, when it comes time to fight, we’re showing up for exciting fights.”

“I’m not in it for the wins and the losses and the draws and the numbers. I’m in it for the excitement, I’m in it to give people a show, I’m in it to show people that this is what we do, and we’re great at it,” she continued.

She’s also taking note of her competitors. “There’s a bunch of girls in the division that I’ve got my eye on, and Julia [Budd, the champion] of course is the main one, but there’s a few girls that are in the way first.” While Leibrock has already fought Blencowe and Harding, Sinead Kavanagh faces the unbeaten Olga Rubin later in the month. It’s just one example.

“I’ve definitely got my eye on the competition, and I know that I’m going to step in the cage with each one of these girls eventually.”

“All respect to the UFC, but Bellator is where it’s at for the featherweights.”

Some bigger names in Bellator would be even better, Notably, Cris Cyborg, the most recognized female featherweight on the planet, has just one fight left on her UFC deal. She has spoken openly about moving over to Bellator, as the UFC never developed the featherweight division the way they should have.

“I’m excited, I want them all to come over,” Leibrock said of the potential addition. “I want Megan to come over too, because that’s a rematch that I want.”

“They should all come to Bellator. This is where the featherweights are at,” she exclaimed, pointing out that Scott Coker and co. “are giving us a platform.”

As Leibrock explained, “the UFC is great, right? They’re great. They’ve been at the top forever. They treat the men’s division so well.” That sort of treatment does not seem to be universal in her opinion, however. “They didn’t give the featherweights the same respect. Even with the TV show [The Ultimate Fighter 28], some of those girls weren’t true featherweights. I truly believe it’s all on looks, and what sells.”

Which is selling the weight class short. “We’re great fighters, and we deserve more than that,” said Leibrock. “And Bellator is giving us that. They’re giving us the opportunity to show more than what our Instagram has. They’re giving us the opportunity to show our skills in the cage, and that’s what we need.”

“All respect to the UFC, but Bellator is where it’s at for the featherweights.”

Amber Leibrock meets Amanda Bell on the preliminary portion of Bellator 215. The event takes place Friday, February 15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.