At Bellator 253, former LFA welterweight champ Jaleel Willis finally made his Bellator debut.
One of a flurry of recent signings by the promotion, Willis was actually supposed to debut last month against top lightweight contender Patricky Pitbull. When Pitbull was diagnosed with Labyrinthitis the day of the fight, Willis saw his debut pushed back a month. To a higher weight class. Against a new opponent.
Willis got the job done against Mark Lemminger, getting his hand raised for a unanimous decision win after three rounds. And it seems 170lbs is where he’ll stay moving forward.
“I think welterweight is going to be my home,” he stated following the fight. “I was talking to my mentor, King Mo, he was kind of letting me know, I’m still growing. I’ve still got a lot more to do in this sport.”
“I shouldn’t be trying to chase being a weight class bully or something like that,” Willis added. “I feel like I can compete to 85 if I have to. I’m up for the challenge. I feel like I’ll settle right in with the welterweight division here.”
Willis certainly got a game opponent for his debut, even if it wasn’t the more widely renowned Pitbull.
“He’s the type of fighter where the longer the fight goes, the better he is. And I’m the same fighter.” Willis believed things would get interesting around the end of the second onward. “I know, with a lot of wrestlers, we’re looking for positions, looking for positions, it’s like a normal wrestling match.” When Willis got his jab going, and Lemminger didn’t react, he knew his opponent was a warrior.
While welterweight will remain his home, Willis is still game to fight Patricky Pitbull, perhaps at a catchweight. “I’m always up for the challenge,” he said backstage at the Mohegan Sun Arena. “I’m aware of how things work though. This might be a little delicate process. I’m pretty sure Patricky is one shot away [from a fight for the title]. For a fight with me, he has absolutely no reason to [take it]. But if that’s my next challenge, I’m more than willing to hop on and do what I’ve got to do to make sure that fight happens.”
Watch the full Bellator 253 post-fight press conference with Jaleel Willis above.