If you’re curious about why Jay-Jay Wilson hasn’t been seen in the Bellator cage for almost a year, it comes down to injury.
Wilson (9-1), set to return against lightweight grand prix alum and ROAD FC tournament winner Mansour Barnaoui at Bellator 299 this Saturday, had been lined up for a fight with TriStar’s Mandel Nallo back in March.
That fight fell through, Wilson told Cageside Press recently, because “I had a really bad neck injury during training. I couldn’t even get out of my own bed for about two months, so obviously I wouldn’t be able to fight.” The good news? “I’m fully recovered from that now, so I’m ready to go.”
After his head “kind of hit the mat” in training, Wilson wound up with a tear and seven bulged discs in my neck, “so it was a pretty bad injury.”
With everything back on track, American Top Team’s Wilson, originally from New Zealand, has a massive opportunity in front of him in Barnaoui, currently ranked #9 at lightweight. That’s just the sort of fight that “The Maori Kid” is looking for these days.
“I think I’m at that point of my career now where I want to fight the best in the world, and I would say Mansour is definitely top 10 in the world across all promotions,” said Wilson, who noted that “currently I’m unranked at 155, and unfortunately because of my loss when I came here [to the weight class], I wasn’t able to fight in the lightweight grand prix. So I’m really excited to stamp my name in this division by beating him, and putting my name in the rankings and talks of contention.”
Whether Wilson feels the rankings matter than not, he knows he’s not the best self-promoter, and those little numbers next to fighters’ names at least offer a pathway to the top. “I’m not really a good promotion guy, I’m not really good at promoting myself. I know I can fight, but the whole promotion side for me is difficult, I need to get better at that. But personally I don’t have an opinion on that [whether the rankings truly matter], I don’t really know. But I know if you’re in the rankings, top three, top five, you’re going to get a title shot within one or two fights.”
“My goal is to be a world champion, and to do that I have to beat the number one guy, so essentially I just have to climb the ladder.”
When it comes to Barnaoui, Wilson knows he’s facing a difficult opponent, one cutting a massive amount of weight — as Jay-Jay himself used to.
“Mansour’s a tough opponent. He’s a really big guy for 155. For me, making weight, it’s not easy but it’s not very difficult. So I think about him cutting weight and I’m like ‘man this guy must suffer a little bit.’ I suffered quite a bit when I was cutting down to 145, so I can imagine his weight cuts, what they’ll be like, and I’m interested to see the effects they’ll have on him, on his performance.”
Despite his struggles making 145, Wilson believes he performed well there. But, he added, “if I could change something about MMA, it would be the weight cut.” After all, he pointed out, everyone in his division pretty much weighs the same, hulking Barnaoui aside. “Most of us all walk around the same weight. We all walk around around 180. If we didn’t cut, we could all just fight at our walk-around weight, and life would be a lot happier.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator 299’s Jay-Jay Wilson above.