Ahead of Bellator 221, featherweight Cris Lencioni discusses tough PNW fighters, “mentally weak” cheaters using performance enhancing drugs.
Chicago, IL — Bellator MMA is bringing one of its biggest shows of the year to Chicago this weekend, at the AllState Arena. Bellator 221 has a champ vs. champ fight atop the card, another big fight in the welterweight grand prix, and the return of Jake Hager, a.k.a. former WWE superstar Jack Swagger. Also returning earlier in the night, however, is Cris Lencioni.
‘Sunshine’ is a fitting nickname for the fighter with the nearly blinding blonde hair. Not to mention, his personality is just as sunny. He’s staying positive, despite entering Bellator 221 on a two-fight skid.
As Lencioni (4-2) told reporters including Cageside Press Wednesday at the event’s media day, he’s just happy to be getting back to work. “This is like my 15th fight, and I just started four years ago, about,” he explained.
“That’s like what, four or five fights a year? Four fights a year essentially?” However, while that pace looks impressive on paper (it includes his amateur bouts as well), “I did most of them the first two [years], and when you get into the big show, there’s so many fighters out there that you don’t fight as often. I’d love to fight all the time.”
On the subject of his amateur bouts, he certainly feels they matter. “In Oregon, amateur MMA is professional MMA everywhere else. Not to be a jerk, but the Pacfic North West has some of the toughest dudes in the world,” he boasted.
His opponent at Bellator 221, however, is also a tough dude. One with a bit of a shine to him, as Adil Benjilany enters the fight with a two-fight win streak. Which technically would be longer, although a no contest due to an accidental illegal knee broke up his streak.
“Don’t say shine, dude, that’s my word,” Lencioni joked Wednesday. He agreed, however, that Benjilany has “got some good publicity. I can’t wait to meet him, he seems like a cool guy, I think he’s got an accent right? Like a Chicago accent.” Lencioni almost sounds more like he wants to befriend his opponent, rather than fight him. “Maybe we’ll get some pizza afterwards, for sure.” But friendliness aside, “I’m really excited to beat him, because beating him, he beat that weird guy from Oklahoma that’s all jacked for 145, let’s be real. So it’ll be like getting 2 for 1, getting the special.”
After a win at Bellator 221, Lencioni is looking to run things back with Tywan Claxton. That might be a tough sell, as Bellator seems intent on building the ‘Air’ Claxton brand.
In any case, that “jacked for 145” comment certainly raised some eyebrows. Asked to elaborate, Lencioni answered that “I work out in weight lifting gyms, lets just put it that way. So many people are on gear, this and that. I’m an all-natural skinny boy right here, and this is what you get.”
Speaking about performance enhancing drug use as a whole, he added that “cheaters going to cheat, period. Right? Doesn’t matter if it’s fight, NFL, NBA, your friggin’ relationships. Cheaters cheat, right?” Lencioni, however, feels the need to stoop to that level is a sign of weakness. “I don’t think that matters at the end of the day. I think it’s all up here [pointing to his head]. I think cheaters are mentally weak. I don’t play that card. I’m 24 years old, I’ve got a big nice package, I’m trying to keep it in shape. I want to have some beautiful-ass kids. Not messing around with steroids.”
He’s also more for drug testing in Bellator, which leaves drug testing to the athletic commissions, as was the case with rival UFC prior to the USADA era.
“Yeah, yeah totally. I’d submit a blood test every month. Every two weeks even. What’s the limit on that?” he asked. “I would even do it if it even increased my pay, to be honest with you. Because people bitch about about money, and this and that. You get what you make, I think.”
In fact, Lencioni feels more drug testing would bring more money to the sport. “Definitely I think if we were stricter, if we were even more raising the standards, I think we’d bring a lot more financial gain to the sport,” he suggested. “It wouldn’t feel like we were giving a bunch of ex-cons or whatever a f*cking thousand bucks to just beat the sh*t out of each other.”
“Let’s clean it up a little bit. I mean look at me, right?”
Watch the full Bellator 221 media day press scrum with Cris Lencioni above! Bellator 221 takes place live on Saturday, May 11, live on DAZN.