Jaleel Willis on Underdog Status at Bellator Paris: “Casual Fans Gonna Do What Casual Fans Do”

Welterweight Jaleel Willis returned to Bellator MMA on a full head of steam in 2020, on a four fight win streak that he quickly extended to six.

It was a triumphant return after a one-off fight for the company in 2016, as well as a short stint in the WSOF (World Series of Fighting), precursor to the PFL. Of late, however, Willis has had his struggles, posting a 1-3 record in his last four.

That said, Willis (16-5) has been granted a serious opportunity with a short-notice fight at Bellator Paris on Friday, May 17, where he takes on Cedric Doumble. It’s a fight Willis sees as a chance to swoop in and steal some fans.

“Yeah definitely. Even if it wasn’t short notice, this is a massive opportunity to gain fans, gain new followers, and see what it’s like to pad my record with somebody like him,” Willis explained during this week’s Bellator Paris media day.

And if Doumbe is the face of Bellator in Europe or the reworked Bellator Champions Series in general, then what does a win over the French fighter do for Willis? “Make me the face,” he said simply.

Despite Willis questioning whether Doumbe is a “god of kickboxing” the way he’s sometimes billed, he’s coming into the fight as a sizeable underdog, in the +400 area. That, in spite of his obvious edge in wrestling. Still, there’s no motivation from being overlooked.

“No, no not even,” Willis told Cageside Press. “I just see it as, casual fans gonna do what casual fans do.”

As for any concerns about the short-notice nature of the bout for Willis, he was already looking for a fight when the offer came. “I was already in camp. I was 100% already in camp, already trying to get fights, or pitching fights. I’m trying to get anybody to step in there with me. For this they finally gave me the opportunity to say ‘yeah dog. Okay bet.'”

Watch the full Bellator Paris media day appearance by Jaleel Willis above.