Los Angeles — It might not be fair to call it a grudge match, but things did escalate just a little between Juan Archuleta and Raufeon Stots at Monday’s Bellator MMA press conference in L.A.
That mostly came about when Archuleta (25-3), a former bantamweight champ fighting Stots for interim gold at Bellator 279 later this month — part of the opening round of the bantamweight grand prix — suggested that his opponent was avoiding a fight with teammate Sergio Pettis, who pulled out of the tournament due to injury.
Pettis just so happens to hold the 135lb title in the promotion.
For himself, Archuleta told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview later on Monday, “this is just another fight. For me. Obviously I’m under his skin, or got some type of annoyance under him for some reason. But it is what it is. At this point, I’ve got one goal, and that’s winning this tournament. And the first step to winning this tournament is beating whoever comes in front of me first, and it just so happens to be Stots.”
Archuleta does understand the reluctance to fight a teammate. “Of course it sucks, right. I obviously understand. But if he wasn’t going to fight for the title, who’s the clear picture to fight for the title? And that’s all I said. I said, ‘if you’re not fighting for the title, why would I fight you? I would rather fight for the title. I understand you don’t want to fight Sergio.’ And that’s all that was said, and he misconstrued it and strung it to a whole completely different realm that I didn’t understand.”
Much like Stots himself, who stated during the press conference that he wants to fight everyone, Archuleta told us that “I’m looking to fight the best people in the world. I definitely want the Pitbull rematch. Shoot I’ll even fight his brother. Those are good fights, those are legendary fights that you can make happen. I can fight at 155, I can fight at 145. I mean shoot, A.J [McKee]’s here, I would love to challenge myself against him.”
Archuleta lost to Patricio Pitbull in another Bellator grand prix, at featherweight. He’s yet to tango with McKee. But that sort of approach is not something that’s personal, Archuleta added. “We always want to know how good we are, we want to find the best in every division and fight those type of guys. A guy like A.J., yeah, you want to fight guys like that. And if you’re not challenging yourself and putting yourself in [uncomfortable situations], then it’s exactly like, Raufeon is right, he’s out there seeking the best and so am I. I’ve proven that time and time again.”
“I understand why he wants to fight me, and I want to fight him too, he’s a great fighter, right?” Archuleta continued. “And come fight night we’re going to see that happen. Going forward, I do see myself bouncing still up and down and throughout weight classes just to see what I’m capable of doing.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator 279’s Juan Archuleta above. The event takes place on Saturday, April 23, 2022 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii.