Coming off the first loss of his pro career, bantamweight prospect Mike Kimbel actually sees the defeat as something of a feather in his cap.
New York, NY — Returning on a stacked card at Bellator 222 this Friday is bantamweight prospect Mike Kimbel. Just 22 years old, Kimbel started his pro career in the big show, with a pair of first round knockouts. Among them, a record-setting six second knockout of Alex Potts at Bellator 207 last October.
They can’t all be knockouts, however. At Bellator 222, Kimbel (2-1) is coming off his first career loss. Still, he told Cageside Press at Wednesday’s media day, “life is great.”
When he was a teenager, Kimbel always wanted to be the best. To be the champ. Then, “life came in, and I couldn’t even really see myself making it past — when I turned 17, my 18th birthday came, I was like ‘there’s no way I’m going to make it to 19, I’m going to live it up 18.’ When I turned 19, I didn’t think that I would live to see 20.”
Once he hit 20, however, Kimbel made the hard decision to cut out a part of his life, including “my boys that I love, they go their way, I go my mine. Straight path.”
Life has been good since, he says. “Ever since I decided to go pro, life has been amazing. [Bellator 222] being at MSG, it’s just the cherry on the cake. World’s most famous arena. I get to rock the house. It’s going to be crazy.”
As for the loss last time out, to John Douma, Kimbel said that “you know New England MMA, from the amateur to the pros, it’s probably some of the most contested pool of them all. And he was ranked number 10 at bantamweight, and I was ragdolling him.” It was just when things were going good, however, that it fell apart. “So I bullied the bully in that fight, and I actually shook myself up a little bit, because I was like ‘hold up, there’s no way that this is going this way.’ And I actually got caught thinking for a moment and just threw it up there.”
Lesson learned. “I get to the mats, I grapple my ass off, I train my ass off, and I wrestle my ass off. Even my whole team they’re like ‘how the f*ck do you get caught like that?'” Kimbel recalled. “I was like ‘I couldn’t even tell you.’ I just learned to keep my composure and just work. Just work. Don’t be surprised in there, because I’m the apex in there. So why am I going to be surprised at how anything’s going? Because I train my ass off to make things look easy.”
“I learned to keep my composure, keep my cool, and let the fight play out,” he added. “It’s a long time that they’ve got to be in there with me for.”
Kimbel actually sees the loss as a feather in his cap. “The ways things have been moving, it’s almost like magical, almost unreal,” he said. And being keenly aware that he’s a role model for younger kids, including his little brother, he has found a silver lining in losing. “If they see wins, only wins and the way it’s been looking, like it’s magical, they’ll probably feel like I felt as a kid, like ‘that life is not obtainable, those people are there because those people are there,’ and not because you got to work for it. So being able to have a loss, on the world stage, to show the world, main card, on TV, everybody seen it, now I get to show them that this game is a game of centimeters. Not feet, not inches.”
It’s a healthy approach to losing, no doubt.
Curiously, despite being a New England native (from Connecticut), Kimbel gets his share of grief from fans in the area, at least outside of his home state. While underscoring that he’s not making comparisons, Kimbel noted that “They laughed at Einsteain. I’m sure they doubted Abraham Lincoln. They probably laughed at [Michael] Jordon. They probably made fun of Lebron [James].” Tom Brady, the list goes on.
“Me personally, I have no idea. I show up to fight, I train, and I just be me. You know what’s crazy about the whole New England area, they say New England MMA, or New England versus everybody. But Connecticut is New England! But I’m to the point where it’s like f*ck it all, it’s CT versus everybody!”
He feels, at least to some extent, that a bit of jealousy might be at play. “This is a serious thing,” he began. “When I was coming up, people weren’t recording videos, people weren’t representing area codes, a dude could be from an hour away, and he’s representing where he’s from an hour away, he wasn’t repping his home town.”
“Now you’ve got these dudes putting their area codes in their bios,” Kimbel continued, “you’ve got people fronting themselves, talking like me, and it’s like, you guys all dislike me, but yet you’re trying to portray yourself as me. So maybe you dislike me because you can’t be me? Because i don’t want to be like anybody. I just want to be the best me, and provide a wonderful life for myself and my loved ones.”
The next step in providing just that comes Friday at Bellator 222. His opponent, Sebastian Ruiz, is a young prospect out of Peru. “I feel like it’s a great match-up. Another tough one,” Kimbel observed. “That’s another thing. These guys pad their records. Not me. I’m in the shark tank, straight up. I’m excited, personally. He’s got very good Muay Thai, he’s never been knocked out. He’s young, he’s younger than me. And he’s very tenacious. It’s a fun fight, man but I’m just going to go get the job done.”
Bellator 222 takes place Friday, June 14 at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.