Losing a fight was something that Jaleel Willis had forgotten the feeling of, and it left a bitter taste in his mouth when Willis saw his win streak end last year.
At Bellator 268 in October, Willis (15-3) suffered his first loss in the Bellator cage. Mukhamed Berkhamov submitted him in the first round; the loss snapped his six-fight winning streak and halted his momentum.
After the fight, many emotions were running through his mind, but the biggest one was disgust. He had a bitter taste in his mouth because he didn’t live up to his potential in the biggest fight of his career.
“There were a lot of emotions that night, I can’t lie, but the biggest thing was that there was this bitter taste in the mouth. It wasn’t towards Mukhamed, just my performance because I know that wasn’t me at all,” Willis told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview.
While he was disgusted with his performance, he learned some fundamental lessons.
“I learned that there is a lot more than just rushing the guy and getting that first drop on him, you know, and keeping your foot on the gas. Like, I usually don’t fight like that. I kept telling everybody that it was going to be something special. It was going to be special because I wanted to get my first finish in the Bellator cage. It had been a few years, and I wanted to show people that I finish fights,” Willis said. “So, I kind of got away from the mission of fighting for 15 minutes and showing everyone what I’m all about. Instead, the mission I went towards was ‘let’s finish this guy, let’s get paid, let’s get this seven-fight win streak and then call the division out.’ I jump the gun too much, and it cost me.”
Willis faces Sabah Homasi this weekend, and he wants everyone to know that he called for this fight.
“First off, notice how you said I’ve been going from once tough opponent to the next one? Let everyone know that I called for this fight. It was all me. I could have taken an easy win and worked my way back up the rankings, but like I said, that last fight left a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth, and I knew that I needed to bounce back with a big one. I know I can beat Homasi. I’ve been watching him for years, like since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter to his run in the UFC. I’ve been game-planning on how to break his will,” Willis said.
“His only chance to beat me is if he knocks me out. That’s his whole game. He knocks people out, or he gets knocked out. He isn’t built to stay in there for 15 minutes; he has to go swinging for the fences, or else his night is over.”
On top of trying to bounce back from his first loss in the promotion, Willis returns to the exact same arena that he lost in last October.
Jaleel Willis vs. Sabah Homasi kick off the Bellator 273 main card on Showtime this Saturday at 7 p.m PST/10 p.m. EST.