Bellator 231’s Mandel Nallo: From Video Games to Dead Rat Photography

Mandel Nallo Bellator 207
Mandel Nallo and Big John, Bellator 207 Credit: Mike McClory/Cageside Press

Thoughtful outside the cage, electrifying in it, Mandel Nallo returns at Bellator 231, where ‘Rat Garbage’ will look to continue his string of successes.

Mandel Nallo (7-0) once again steps back into the cage on October 25. Bellator 231 pits Nallo against Killys Mota, with the lightweight bout is slated to go down on the preliminary portion of the card. It all emanates from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. ‘Rat Garbage’ — who shot to fame with an incredible knee KO last year — is taking his first fight of 2019 after an unfortunate cancellation affected Nallo in April.

Tristar preparations

For Nallo, it’s largely the same at Tristar in terms of fight preparation. Though with multiple high stakes Bellator fights coming up (including Rory McDonald’s rematch with Douglas Lima), there is some measure of change in the training rooms. “It’s business as usual at the gym. The wheels are always turning here,” Nallo said. “Georges is always training week over week. There’s a definite mood shift in the gym when something big is bubbling up. Me and Rory are fighting back to back. So I’m fighting Friday and he’s fighting Saturday.”

Nallo takes a bit of an in-between approach with watching tape on his opponent. Some fighters ardently study tape while some are indifferent and avoid it altogether. Nallo seems to understand the utility of getting outside insights but he also knows at the end of the day he needs to focus on his own technique refinement.

Bellator 231

“I think it’s important to get insights from your teammates and coaches,” explained Nallo. “But you also don’t want to go in there blind. You want to know what the guy’s tendencies are. A guy can change a lot in a series of months. So I watch a bit of tape. But you also see guys get caught in the trap of augmenting their game to purposely counter their opponents. But really they’re not sticking to their own style. If you remain true to who you are as a fighter, you’ll win more fights.”

Pundits and fans alike have also taken note of Nallo’s sporadic schedule. There have been some outside variables that have got in the way but still, he’s competed just once a year for the last four years. Nallo sees the positive in this though and has espoused the virtues of a pronounced focus on preparation as opposed to constant competition.

“I’m of the opinion that even if you fight a ton every year, you’re still doing a huge percentage of your career in the gym,’ said Nallo. “So the more you improve and enjoy training, that’s going to pay off in the long run. I love to train and there’s so much technique to learn in a sport like MMA.”

Mandel Nallo and Rat Garbage

Nallo’s Instagram page is littered with numerous collage art pieces. The art is created by Nallo himself using rat photos he takes locally with some collage elements added afterward. Mandel Nallo was humble about it, refusing to outright call it art, and just sort of sees it as a creative outlet. Something to take his mind off of fighting all the time.

He said, “I feel like a real artist would look at what I do and say ‘that guy’s not an artist’. I just felt like keeping a creative outlet to keep that part of my brain sharp is important to me.”

Mandel Nallo had some viral success from the highlight reel finishes he’s had in Bellator. Especially Nallo’s KO of Carrington Banks. Platforms like ESPN have shared the highlights from his 2-0 Bellator run and for some that can create an ‘overnight success’ whirlwind scenario. For Nallo, he doesn’t get too into that kind of thing and he certainly doesn’t chase the attention.

“I don’t really embrace it,” Nallo told us, adding “I like hanging out with my family. I like watching video games on Twitch and I like taking pictures of dead rats. That’s it.” Nallo is also an ardent family man. With a new addition to the family, it will also change the dynamic for Halloween costume decisions toward the month’s end.

To that end, Nallo said that “I have a new baby so I’m going to try to incorporate him into whatever me and my wife dress up as”. As we were wrapping up our conversation, Mandel Nallo ended things off with a poignant thought. He said, “Try to be mindful in life. Don’t waste your time. Time is a great resource. Use it as well as you can.”

Mandel Nallo takes on Killys Mota at Bellator 231 this Friday. Tune in to Cageside Press for Nallo’s fight when the prelims kick off at 6:00 PM ET.

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I've been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I've hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I've been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I've provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I've worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, My MMA News, Sports Betting Dime and Liberty Multimedia.

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