“The baddest man on the planet” Joe Warren (11-3) faces Eduardo Dantas (16-3) in the main event of Bellator 128 to solidify the bantamweight championship title. While Warren was suppoed to fight for the title In Bellator 118, Eduardo “DuDu” Dantas had to withdraw from the fight due to a head injury incurred in practice. He was replaced by Rafael Silva, whom Warren defeated to earn the interim championship. We ask Joe Warren how he has trained for Friday’s main event matchup and what it’s gonna take to become the true bantamweight champion.
How do you feel going into Friday’s Matchup? What’s it like to have another shot at a Bellator championship?
Warren: Good, I’m excited, violent, I already have the Bellator belt. He’s the one that keeps backing out of fights, so as far as I’m concerned the belt is already on my waist and I’m defending it for the fight.
It has to be extremely frustrating to go through all of the work of training camps just to be let down that your opponent isn’t going to be able to compete.
Warren: It’s unprofessional. It sucks but it’s part of the game.
Since Scott Coker’s been on board, it doesn’t seem like there’s been nearly as much smack talk between fighters. Is this kind of a new thing?
Warren: You know I’ve noticed that, they haven’t promoted the fights the same way as before. I’m an outspoken fighter, they don’t need to tell me to sell a fight, I just do it. I’m an outspoken person, I just speak the truth, it just rolls off my tongue. But the bottom line is I usually know how to sell a fight and Bjorn would usually have me sell them, I haven’t had much contact with Coker or any of those guys in this transition yet. I’m not really sure how they’re running anything.
Do you think that that kind of heightened aggression really does work to help to sell a fight or do you think that some audiences are getting fed up with it?
Warren: When it’s not planned it’s truthful. When it’s not planned and it’s real, that’s actual smack talk and that does help. Any time you can help to try and publicize the fight a little bit more it always help build it. I don’t know if they’re focused on less of that or more, I think it’s just the individual fighter. Each person is a little different. I sold the fights I needed to early in my career you know? I did that with Pitbull, Curran and those fighters to bring you guys over to watch us. Now I don’t think I need to sell as much of the fight because I’m fighting such great opponents and Bellator is a mainstream place for everyone to watch fighting. You can tell when it’s planned and obvious and it’s hard because some guys just have a hard time on the mic. Why? Because they don’t believe in themselves. They’re talking shit and they’re lying to you because they don’t really believe they’re gonna do it. Me? It’s very honest coming from me so it’s comfortable for me to do that. Some people are not comfortable with the smack talk or the entertainment part of the fighting game.
You had the featherweight championship at one point and competed in bantamweight at the same time. If you are successful Friday, do you believe you will try to do that again?
Warren: When I came over to Bellator there were no 135’ers, there was only 145’ers and there was big money in those tournaments, so I fought there. I was just outsized. The world championships I won in wrestling were all at 130 and 135, but I took the money, fought, and won the tournament and belt. When I fought against Curran, I took him down 8 times in 3 rounds and he was still able to finish me in the 4th because of the extra 20 pounds. I was at ’45 but I decided to fight down at ’35 and that was when I got knocked out first. I believe I was in the best shape of my life, but it’s an unpredictable sport we’re in. I left my chin a little high and I went to sleep against ALexis Vila, then everyone thought that [moving down] was a bad move, but I don’t listen to what you guys say. I don’t worry about what the press is saying that I need to do to become a champion again. So I stayed focused and kept moving and it’s been 15 years, the muscle memory is coming around. I’ve developed into an MMA fighter from a wrestler, I couldn’t say that before. This weight class is where I’m competitive at and I think that as long as I fight I’ll fight at this weight. I mentioned to my wife that I might go up and beat Pitbull again for the belt but she said no. It’s a way different game when you’re fighting outside of your weight and those guys are 20 pounds heavier and 6 inches taller than you. It’s a different body size.
Chris Weidman stated in a recent interview on the MMA hour that he believes Americans do not support their athletes as much other countries like Brazil, Ireland etc. Do you think American fans give enough support to American Fighters?
Warren: I am the American fighter. I bleed red, white, and blue. I was brought up with world championships and the Olympic team, you don’t get more American than that. I never have a problem with fans anywhere I go in this country, I’ve got the whole arena behind me. I always compete agaisnt very very high level Brazilians. They have a big fan support too but when it comes down to me and that cage I never have a problem with support because usually it’s a throwdown fight and you know the American is coming out on top every single time it goes 4 and 5 rounds. I just get that support a lot of the fights I’m in, I hear “U.S.A.! U.S.A!” I hear that chant all the time when I’m fighting and it brings me back to my wrestling days and it’s exciting, I love hearing it. Many times in the cage you’ll be hurtin and you hear “U.S.A.! U.S.A!” and I just decide “let’s woop this f****** a**!
(Joe Warren goes for the armbar submission on Nick Kirk, photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)
Do you think he believes that because Anderson Silva has such a strong fan base?
Warren: Silva has a very strong and dedicated fan base, it’s very hard to break that fan base. I understand because Dan Henderson was the olympic captain on my team and I always assume Dan’s gonna win no matter who he’s fighting or how old he gets, I got his back. I have those fans that have been following me since the first time I stepped into the cage. I only had two weeks of training before I got in there so I learned inside of the cage with you guys, giving everything I have with the organization to get the win because I’m so hardheaded and I hate to lose. It’s been years of learning who I am mentally and how to get the wins done. I feel like I’ve built a great fanbase at Bellator over the years where people have been able to follow me for free because of the tournaments and things and I have their support. I don’t mind what country you’re from, I’m gonna kick the s*** out of you.
When you did make the transition from wrestling to MMA, did you find the limitations of a cage problematic? Do you think that cages are good or bad for the sport?
Warren: It was an experience. There’s no out of bounds, there’s no time to stop. You put a guy into the cage with me who actually wants to kill me for the things I’ve said, there’s no way to stop and catch your breath. Until one guy goes to the hospital, that fight’s goin on. It’s a scary thing for a wrestler to come over to a cage. I started in Japan in Dream in a ring, so I could still jump out of that ring if I was in trouble you know what I mean? In a cage, you can’t go anywhere man, you’re locked in there and it’s you against him. It’s definitely a whole different mentality and mindset. I don’t really know how much I like fighting in a cage, I just do it you know what I mean? I guess the guy can’t get away from me so it’s good for me because I usually end up getting them in the end.
(Joe Warren prepped for Rafael Silva bantamweight interim title fight, photo courtesy of photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)
Both You and Dantas have a very well rounded record of wins by submission, KO and decision. How do you see this fight going? Do you think you’ll be able to get a KO before you ever have to worry about the ground game?
Warren: I think Dantas is a great, well-rounded fighter like you said, but that being said he’s not that well rounded. He’s never gone to the fourth or fifth round, I make a living in the 4th and 5th round. This is a very comfrotable situation but this is a whole new thing for him. He’s fighting “The baddest man on the planet,” probably the opponent with the strongest mindset he’s ever competed against for 5 rounds. If it’s done before 5 rounds, one of us is probably gonna be sleeping. If not, I’m gonna end up on top.
How have you divided up your time in training for this fight? How much time do you dedicate to cardio, striking and groundwork?
Warren: Training is all taken care of, it’s great. I don’t watch any tapes on opponents, my coach Mark Montoya does all the mind work and gameplan stuff and I just come to practice and impliment it. That’s what I do, I haven’t really changed up what I’m doing besides just focusing on moving forward, make sure I keep my head moving and make sure I stay outside of the range and things like that. It hasn’t changed much. My training is all science-based training and it’s all based out of Phase 4 Athletics out of Santa Monica through Bob Forester. It’s all heart-based training and all strictly for me instead of a team. I’m healthy, strong, quick, light and probably in the best shape I’ve been in my life. I’m excited to see how I’m gonna compete. It kind of feels like I’m a new fighter, so I don’t know how the fight’s gonna go down, but I know I’m gonna end up winning again and I’m just excited for everyone to see the fight too.
(Joe Warren Takes the Interim Bantamweight Title, photo courtesy of Bellator.com)
How does Phase 4 monitor your training?
Warren: They monitor everything. Phase 4 is a group of excercise physiologists that have been working with me since the olympics. It’s all heart rate monitoring, peaking, and they control my diet and everything. I don’t train as hard as I used to, but I train way smarter than I used to. That’s the key to it. I’m the smarter of the athletes out here. I understand that my body is different from everybody else’s out there. People try to train everybody the same, but we all have different heart rates. You need to stay in your fat burning zone and to make sure you don’t go outside of that. You need to make sure you stay at certain levels so that you can go all five rounds and not lose power. That all comes from science-based training. That’s the reason why I’m 38 years old and I’ve never had to have a surgery. It’s the smartest way to train and that’s the way I do it.
It’s amazing that you’ve been able to train and compete for so long without ever needing a surgery.
Warren: MMA’s been the past 5 years, I was on the olympic team for 7 and I’ve been competing my whole life. Back then, it was just about working hard, not safe or smart. It’s an extreme advantage to have Phase 4 on my side.
You are based out of Denver, CO. Do you believe that the altitude difference helps your training?
Warren: I was raised in Michigan and I trained in Colorado Springs when I joined the Olympic wrestling team. I did it because there’s great conditioning, I live at 8,000 feet, that’s where my house is. I don’t see the difference because I live there. I know people are using training masks and such to simulate altitude but you can’t truly simulate it with a device like that.