Paul Bradley (28-6-1) faces Josh Neer (34-13-1) in the welterweight main event of Bellator 129 on Friday. Bellator returns to Iowa at the Mid America Center where the Univerity of Iowa wrestling grad will fight in his home state supported by friends and family. Going into his third fight in the organization, Bradley is more motivated than ever to shine under the Bellator banner. The main event battle is sure to be close, but Bradley believes he has the edge when the cage door closes on Friday.
You’re an Iowan born and raised, but you now train at Alliance MMA in San Diego, CA. While Californians may think they’re the best, what’s one thing Iowa has over California?
Bradley: There’s never a person that’s too stuck up to help someone else out. I can think back to when I drove my car into a ditch when I came home for Christmas and immediately 5 or 6 people pulled over on the interstate to help me out within 2 or 3 minutes. It’s common to see people in California just pass a person on the side of the road. Everyone’s too busy to help their fellow neighbor.
Do you find that fighting in front of your home crowd puts too much pressure on your fight or does it actually help to have friends and family in the crowd?
Bradley: I definitely like that my friends and family can come and watch me fight. More than anything, I think it gives me energy and motivates me. I don’t really feel pressure from it, I wrestled at the Univerity of Iowa in front of 15-16,000 fans. Thankfully I’ve already been through the pressure cooker when it comes to stuff like that. Maybe I’m a little more ansy the first round, but overall I feel like it’s more helpful and beneficial to fight in front of my friends and family. I’ve been fortunate to fight once or twice in smaller promotions in Iowa and rose to the occaison. I wrestled my whole career here, and it’s beneficial for getting ready to headline the main event for Bellator.
When 4 or 5 years comes to an end in collegiate wrestling, is there a lot of discussion between teammates and competitors about who’s going to enter MMA?
Bradley: For me, I was really the only one from Iowa to get into figting. Fortunately for me I had a former teammate that was training to fight, so I got into the sport through him. Usually when you’re done wrestling at Iowa, they try to get you to stick around to either help coach or try to make a run at the olympic team, but I felt like when I was done with wrestling I needed a new challenge and new avenue so I got into fighting.
Neer also has a strong wrestling background, so how do you think you’ll be able to edge a win over him?
Bradley: With Josh it’s going to be about putting a high pace on him, coming forward, and putting my wrestling and striking combinations together, not doing one or the other. I know Josh is a tough fighter. He likes to throw a lot of punches and I think he’s a gritty guy so I need to be coming forward on him with my A game. I think that will help with the openings and help me get a finish against him.
What were some of the biggest challenges when learning how to strike after wrestling for so long?
Bradley: I would say the biggest challenges were learning how to strike and go for the takedown. All I knew how to do was wrestle, so I didn’t even know how to use knees, elbows, kicks and punches to set up a takedown. My first couple of fights was basically a double jab to a double leg, that’s all I knew. Thankfully over the years I’ve had really good coaches who have helped me evolve those skills and I’ve gotten better. But in the beginning it was all about putting everything together.
In the past, you’ve competed in Strikeforce under the direction of Scott Coker. What do you think of the direction he’s taking Bellator?
Bradley: I think he’s done a lot for the brand and company. He worked in a kickboxing promotion for years in San Jose before ever working in Strikeforce, so I think he knows what he’s doing. He built Strikeforce from the ground up. I’ve just met him briefly, but he definitely seems like a good guy and knows how to run a tight organization. He’s built successful businesses before, so when Spike replaced Bjorn I’m sure that’s one of the things they looked at.
You were first exposed to the MMA world when you joined the cast of TUF in the UFC. What do you think of the show as a whole? Do you think the reality show is good or bad for MMA?
Bradley: It’s kind of hit or miss. It puts the fighters in the public eye and you get to see inside their lives, but at the same time you’re kind of like caged animals. You put fighters into a house with no TV, no phones, nothing. You’re spying on what they do. I think it’s good for fighters to go through something like that where they’re taken away from society and they only thing they can do is eat, sleep, train and get ready for a fight. At the same time, it can bring out the worst in people and we’ve seen it season after season. There’s always a few guys who almost get mentally broken. I think if you can get through that though, it’s very helpful for you. But there’s two sides of the coin and its tough.
You’ve seen abolishment of the tournament format in your time in Bellator. Do you think it will be good or bad for the promotion?
Bradley: I think it will do good. Having a show every week was getting watered-down and repetitive. I think having the bigger and fewer shows is going to be better for everyone. Right now there’s the UFC, WSOF and Bellator so you got three promotions competing for air time. This way, they have time to build bigger and better cards. The tournament format didn’t really catch on, so I think it’s a step in the right direction.
How did you earn the nickname “The Gentleman?”
Bradley: My first manager gave it to me, I’m not really sure how he came up with it. I didn’t really embrace it at first, but after a little why it was like, man I’ll stick with it. It’s kinda different, no one really else has it, so I thought hey man it’s kind of cool.
Where do you stand on smack talk build up to fights?
Bradley: I’m not really into it but I think it’s good for the sport. It sells fights and it puts butts in the seats. It’s not my thing but I see the importance of it from a lot of other fighters. People aren’t really interested in two guys that are just real nice to each other and are going out and fighting. People want to see bad blood and want to know that these guys don’t like each other and are going out there to hurt each other. I see both sides and I definitely see why fighters talk trash, like I said it helps put butts in the seats.
It’s been interesting to see how a grappling promotion like Metamoris has grown as a promotion. Do you think that a professional wrestling promotion can ever succeed?
Bradley: They’ve tried a wrestling specific promotion before, but it didn’t really take off. I know Ben Askren and Joe Warren competed in the promotion and as well as a couple other fighters, but it didn’t really sell. Wrestling is a tough sport to sell, they even tried to get rid of it in the olympics for crying out loud. I wish it would take off but it’s tough.
Who would like to face after friday’s fight with Neer?
Bradley: I don’t really know. I’d like to fight someone rated higher than me and make my way towards a title shot. A win over him would put me in the right direction. I can’t really think of anyone off the top of my head, just someone that puts me higher in the division and closer to the title shot.
Do you have any last comments or anything to say to our readers?
Bradley: I’d just like to say thank you to all my coaches and sponsors: WTC Wide format, Dirty Millionaire and Aztec Construction. Definitely looking to Friday night.
Catch Bradley vs. Neer in Bellator 129 on Friday at 9/8C on Spike TV.