After building an impressive fight resume in multiple organizations, Joey Beltran (15-10-1) will challenge Emanuel Newton for the light heavyweight title in Bellator 124. After his loss to Rampage Jackson, Beltran made a big impression in Bellator MMA with a submission victory over Vladimir Matyushenko in Bellator 116. We dive in with Joey on what it takes to be a championship contender and what his gameplan is going into tonight’s matchup.
What are you most excited about for tonight’s matchup?
Beltran: I’m excited for the opportunity to become champion. I’m going to take full advantage of that and end up going home with a nice belt.
Looking at your UFC record, do you feel like the judges’ decisions were right or do you question a lot of them?
Beltran: You can’t really dwell on the past, but I think if anything they’re the reason I got this title shot. The results may not have been in my favor, but everybody who follows MMA and everyone who’s a fan knows that they’re going to get their money’s worth when I’m on the card. Scott Coker knew that, and that’s why I’m getting the shot. I had the opportunity and I took it, I’d be a fool not to.
What do you feel is your greatest strength coming into this fight against Newton?
Beltran: I don’t think I have a strength or advantage over him, but I feel like I can really compete with him. In a fight, I can compete with anyone in the world. It’s not a jiu-jitsu match, it’s not a freestyle wrestling match, it’s a fight and there’s a lot of variables that go into that. I train with one of the best teams in the world at Alliance MMA and two of the greatest coaches as far as the ground game is concerned. Niel Melanson and coach Brian Keck. Can’t ask for better coaches or training partners with guys like Phil Davis, Alex Gustafsson and Brandon Vera.
What is your take on Emanuel Newton Outside of the ring?
Beltran: I’ve trained with Emanuel at Reign training center a few years back, we’ve known each other. He’s really respectful. We’re not friends, but we are friendly. I got no problem with him, he’s a very respectable martial artist, a great champion and a great ambassador for the sport. That being said, when they ring that bell I’m going to take his head off.
What was your take on last week’s display with Ortiz and Bonnar?
Beltran: People like me and Newton are here to fight fights and make money doing it. We’re not here to put on a spectacle, there won’t be any masked men in the ring. On one hand, Bonnar and Tito put in the time and the hard work, it’s not like they just showed up. But on the other hand, I can see they are making some money and are trying to generate some buzz.
Is there anything you’ve changed in your approach going from the UFC into Bellator?
Beltran: No, after the Rampage fight I made the decision that there would no longer be any decisions with my fights. I’m going for the knockout or submission, whatever the case may be. I will never leave it in the hands of the judges again. After the Moldonado fight, that’s what screwed me over and got me cut from the UFC. The future’s looking bright in Bellator and everything’s looking good. I can’t complain.
What are some of the notable changes you’ve seen going into Bellator? What are some of the things Bellator could do better going into the future?
Beltran: I think they’re doing an awesome job with the production and the final product that you see on TV. Overall, I think that there’s nothing they can do to improve. The move with Coker is a step in the right direction, although I have nothing bad to say about Bjorn. He was always nice to me and polite.
When you’re preparing for a fight, do you study your opponent or do you go in with a sense of your own game?
Beltran: I try to make sure I’m in the best condition possible and fight my type of fight for as long as it goes. I don’t try to dwell too much on what my opponent is going to try to do.
Let’s say you get the win for this fight, what will be the first thing you do?
Beltran: Fly home, see my kids and my wife, put the belt on and sit back and relax. I’ll go back to work on Monday and get back to teaching my classes with my students and get back into the flow of things. No spectacular plans, vacations or anything like that.
As a fighter, do you think the new “superfight” format will help Bellator?
Beltran: Yes, I think that because of the over-saturation of the market, it’s going to come down to who puts on the best fights. I think that gives Coker more time to promote and it will make for a bigger event in each of the cities we go into. It will make a better product. It’s going to improve everything and the company as a whole.
Let’s say you win. If you had your pick, who would you want to fight next?
Beltran: Tito Ortiz because he was someone I idolized growing up. I would watch a video of him fighting and get pumped as a kid!
Catch Newton vs. Beltran in the main card of Bellator 124 tonight on Spike TV at 9/8c.