Bellator MMA emerges from its forced hibernation later this week. After the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a number of shows being cancelled/postponed, Scott Coker and company return Friday, July 24 with Bellator 242. Among the fighters returning to action on this first card back, undefeated bantamweight prospect Cass Bell.
Bell (5-0) has had roughly four weeks, come fight night, to prepare for opponent Raufeon Stots this Friday, he told Cageside Press ahead of the fight. “I got the phone call, said yeah, I jumped up and started training right away.”
Of course, training has been no easy feat for fighters during the pandemic. Bell, who calls Humboldt, California home, is no exception.
“Where we were, it was all shut down. All the gyms were shut down, there was no training, no nothing.” For most fighters, that meant training at home, or outside. “But I don’t really have any way to work out, because my gym’s right down the street from my house. So that’s where I go. I didn’t need to buy any equipment, because I had the gym right there.”
Or so he thought. That left Bell running, doing push-ups, and so forth. “Luckily as soon as I found out about the fight, probably two days later, we got the okay to open up the gym,” Bell recalled. “So we didn’t have to sneak in the gym to do it, which was cool.”
On the plus side, Bell had quarantined with his coach, as well as teammate Tyson Miller. “So I was able to get some training in with them.” That, and drilling on his dummy, who Bell has named Maddox. “I’ve been drilling on that aspect, just doing the moves over and over again.”
Of course, the preference would be for things to be normal. “But the guys I do have that were training with me, I feel like are the best ones to have my back, to get me where I should be,” said Bell.
One positive side effect of the pandemic, Bell has had time to fully heal up. Fighters almost always have some nagging injury or other heading into a fight. Not this time.
“So far, I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but so far I’m going into this fight 100% healed up. No injuries, which is awesome,” exclaimed Bell. “Usually there’s always something, I’d have some bruises or something like that. But I was able to recover and let my body rest for once.”
When Bell faces Stots this Friday at Bellator 242, he’ll be facing a fighter with twice his experience in terms of professional MMA fights. But he knows what to watch out for; he’s done his homework.
“He has great wrestling. He’s a two-time All-American wrestler. He always reverts back to his wrestling,” observed Bell, who expects Stots to try to hold him down. “I have to watch out for that, make sure he doesn’t hold me down like he does his other opponents.”
Bell is also confident regardless of where the fight ends up. “I believe I can finish him on the ground, I believe I can finish him standing. So where ever he wants to take it, I’m down for it. I’m down for whatever.”
Bell has been working on replicating the empty arena feel in the gym — no music, for starters. But he admits that “it’s definitely going to be a lot different” without fans and family in the stands. Still, he said, “this is the fight game, I’m used to stuff happening. I believe I’ll be prepared for it.”
In fact, he suggested, he might even be more relaxed. As for corner talk, Bell and his team switch up their code words every time out, so they’ll be well prepared. The announcers, he noted, could be interesting, if he can hear them talking.
Maybe a little advice from Big John will drift his way.
Bell has had tremendous support at home in California, both in terms of fans and media coverage. “It’s awesome. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.” One factor, perhaps, is that he has stayed put, while other successful athletes often tend to pack up, for new teams, greener pastures and the like.
“I got all the support that I need,” Bell said of Humboldt. “I bring a sea of green, green shirts that I give out to everybody. We fill up the stands with so many people. [Scott] Coker sees it, all the Bellator staff sees it. So I’ve got all the support that I need. And it’s building. Every fight, every day I get more and more people supporting.”
“Even the haters. I turn the haters into fans also,” he added. “All the support from Humboldt is just cool.”
Bellator 242 goes down Friday, July 24 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.