Raufeon Stots (12-1) takes on Cheyden Leialoha at Bellator 236. The promotion’s latest visit to Hawaii goes down Saturday, December 21. Stots has been a hotly discussed prospect for a while and gets his much-deserved opportunity on an international stage Saturday night. Standing in his way is Leialoha, who has the benefit of being a native of Hawaii. It will be a partisan crowd for Leialoha but Stots seems very focused on the task at hand.
December marks birthdays for both Raufeon Stots and his partner. Their anniversary is that month too. His Bellator debut being in December has been a bit serendipitous for Stots. Speaking to Cageside Press, he said, “As cliche as it sounds, I think it all happened for a reason. I think I’m where I’m supposed to be. So it feels really good and it feels right… a really big opportunity to be on a main card for such a world-renowned organization.”
Stots has accrued a lot of experience in various promotions. Going through some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows a fighter can go through. “I feel like I was able to fight the toughest people I could find to fight,” he stated. “I’m ready. Fought vets of other top organizations. I’ve fought champions and I feel like I’m really well prepared.”
His Bellator 236 opponent is a martial artist Stots is certainly familiar with. “I feel like we were supposed to fight when we were on the VFC circuit,” Stots told us. “He’s real well-rounded, he’s a gamer. He wrestled before so he’s going to be well-rounded everywhere. I just believe I’m better everywhere. I’ve just got to go out there and prove that to him.”
The tropical backdrop for fight week is a welcome change from where Stots is currently at, temperature-wise. Stots quipped that “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to fight. It was like what, 11 degrees here in Milwaukee? I think it’s like 85 year-round there in Hawaii. I’m saying that it’s his hometown but I’m so happy to fight in Hawaii. Being there, being able to take my family there, it’s very exciting.”
Raufeon Stots’ Development
Sucker Punch Entertainment has been a key part of Stots’ development and facilitated the Bellator deal coming together. Stots noted that “Brian Butler, I feel like he’s the best in the game. He’s so fighter-oriented… I feel like he genuinely cares about my well being. He doesn’t over-talk and under-deliver. He kind of does the opposite.”
The dialogue for Stots coming over to Bellator MMA was happening before anything official got going though. “I was at Emmanuel Sanchez’s fight cornering Emmanuel Sanchez,” said Stots, “and Big John came up to me and was like ‘Hey, Raufeon I saw you on that Kinektic grappling event. You whooped ass. When are you going to come over to Bellator?’….Let me know!”
Roufusport is where Stots sharpens his tools ahead of big fights. “Sergio Pettis is like my main training partner,” he said. “Emmanuel Sanchez is like one of my main training partners… Anthony Pettis always. I roll with some of the bigger guys.”
Though recent Bellator signee Sergio Pettis is in the same division as Stots, there likely won’t be any issues going forward. Stots stated, “I don’t think it will create anything. Just because there’s tons of people to fight out there. If we come to a situation with a title fight, I feel like he has the most experience so he should get it first. He’s been with a top organization for most of his life. And I’m happy for Sergio. That’s like my brother. I’m never going to want to fight Sergio.”
While Stots is always trying to learn, teaching seminars has been key to that progression as a martial artist. “When you’re able to teach something, that means you have to understand it to a point where you can convey that to another person,” explained Stots. “The teaching aspect of wrestling just allows me to further understand the why’s, the whats, and how I’m doing things… I have to think things through more instead of just doing them.”
When he isn’t refining his combat skills, he loves to listen to Chance the Rapper. Stots said it reminds him of Kanye when Kanye was sane.
He’s also a fighter he is looking at his options. Stots is not overlooking his immediate opponent, but a James Gallagher fight could pan out in the future.
Stots revealed that “We were pushing for the fight too, man. I feel like where I’m at, I don’t need to run around or duck and dodge anybody. I train at a high level. I’ve fought at a high level. I’m pretty much ready for any opportunity. So yeah we tried to put feelers out to get me a fight against James Gallagher early on. I feel like I’d dominate. I feel like I’d dominate anybody in the division. Anybody in the world.”