When the first of two Featherweight Grand Prix Semi-Finals goes down this Thursday at Bellator 253, former bantamweight champ Darrion Caldwell will look to move one step closer to a second title.
Caldwell (15-3) defeated Henry Corrales and Adam Borics to get to this point. Next, up, undefeated 16-0 phenom A.J. McKee.
His opponent has been full of confidence ahead of the fight, saying he welcomes Caldwell’s takedown attempts. “He’s super confident because he’s undefeated, but he hasn’t felt my pressure. He hasn’t felt the way I move,” said Caldwell during the Bellator 253 media day this week. And that, said Caldwell, an NCAA Division I wrestler, may change McKee’s thoughts on the matter.
Caldwell also has adversity to fall back on. Unlike McKee, he’s been down before, and knows what it takes to fight his way back. “I think adversity definitely can make or break you, and for me, I’ve been through adversity throughout my whole life,” Caldwell explained. “You look at the media today, the way things go, it’s a lot of black on black crime, right? And so, first, I’m here to say, this is the only time, the only place that there should be black on black crime— is in a cage. You got a beef, got a difference with your own people, your own kind, settle it the right way. There’s plenty of ways to do it. But adversity just comes by nature. I was born to lose, built to win.”
Win is what he plans to do. And when his 145lb goal is achieved, Caldwell says he’s far from done with his old bantamweight stomp grounds.
“I’ve been saying this for years, and I don’t think you guys understand what I’m saying: I’m the bantamweight king. When I get back down there, it’s on,” Caldwell stated.
Asked about the current 135lb champ, Juan Archuleta, Caldwell admitted that “Juan is great. He’s a great fighter. He’s been a champion in pretty much every organization he’s fought in. When I was coming up in the rankings, let’s be honest, there wasn’t much to turn to. There was Joe Warren, who he’s done a lot, but when you match us up, it’s just not a fair fight.”
Having a foil like Archuleta, and old foe Kyoji Horiguchi, who will return in RIZIN later this year, changes things. “We brought in Horguchi, Horiguchi had two great nights, kind of put me to the back of the line. Archuleta steps up, he gets a title. But to have guys like Archuleta, Horiguchi, Sergio Pettis in the weight class at 35, it just makes it more fun. It makes more realistic for me when I’m talking about being the best bantamweight in the world.”
Bellator 253 takes place Thursday, November 20 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Unvasville, CT. The main card airs live on CBS Sports Network.