Bellator 170: “Ortiz vs Sonnen” comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., tomorrow night (Sat., Jan. 21, 2017), featuring a main event that should be a ratings sensation for Spike TV — “The Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz vs. “The Bad Guy” Chael Sonnen at Light Heavyweight.
It’s not the only intriguing fight that evening, though.
Metamoris founder, Ralek Gracie, has an unblemished mixed martial arts (MMA) record (3-0), including a career win over the legendary Japanese “Gracie Killer” in Kazushi Sakuraba. He’s also (in)famous for one of the worst rap videos in history. For all of those reasons — both good and comical — signing Gracie to a Bellator contract was a natural choice for a promotion that’s always seeking publicity.
Enter Hisaki Kato, who is fresh off a technical knockout win at Bellator 162, and a man with ties to both France and Japan who might just take someone beating the legendary Sakuraba personally. Best of all, Kato loves to bang.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Kato about this classically old school “Style vs. Style” match up that pits Gracie’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu against Kato’s dynamic striking, but we start with a look back at his night in Memphis, Tenn., against A.J. Matthews.
“Yeah, it was a great fight. He said he will do the striking part with me and he did it. I enjoyed that fight actually. A.J. Matthews is a nice guy. I respect him as a fighter, too, and as a man, so it was a great day and a great fight.”
For a one-round, back-and-forth fight it was worthy of a Bellator highlight reel, especially given Kato went for the kill late after nearly getting with a liver kick earlier. An eye poke gave Matthews a reprieve, but it was only temporary.
“I knew he was quite hurt with his liver (from the kick). I don’t know why the commentators were saying I was dizzy and stuff because he was way in more danger than me. Unfortunately, I did the eye poke and he could recover a bit, but I knew he was really close to break(ing) and when I heard the bell with the last 10 seconds I knew I had to finish that fight now.”
If Bellator had a “Performance of the Night” bonus everybody on the main card in Memphis was deserving, but arguably you could still give it to Kato for earning a stoppage with two seconds left. Perhaps getting to fight on the huge “Ortiz vs. Sonnen” card is that bonus, but Kato is aware of the potential problem that Gracie won’t want to stand and deliver the way Matthews did.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be more complicated to shine with the striking because he is definitely gonna try to pressure me and put me to the ground. I know it’s coming, I know that’s what he’s going to do, but you know I’ve been doing a lot of grappling and ground training. With him, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know how hard I can punch, and he’s not been doing a lot of MMA.”
That’s an understatement — Gracie has “not been doing a lot of MMA.” In fact, Saturday night will be Gracie’s first MMA fight in almost seven years, although as recently as last year he had a grappling match in his own promotion.
Kato says that won’t help him one bit.
“It’s different to fight and to train. To be punched in the face in a fight is really different. It’s not a secret. Everybody knows it’s going to be like that. He’s gonna try to put me down (to the ground) and I’m going to try to counter him and to just knock him out.”
I asked Kato if Gracie’s professional MMA record filled with pro wrestlers (Katsuyori Shibata and Kazushi Sakuraba) showed that perhaps he wasn’t taking fighting all that seriously.
“Well, it was MMA rules, so if you fight in MMA rules you have an MMA fight, so that’s not a problem for me. Of course he did some fights with people who are better on the ground than their feet, so I will be different.”
To put it even more directly, though, can Gracie be taken seriously in this fight since more of his focus is on running Metamoris than having MMA fights under those aforementioned MMA rules?
“The guy was born into a legendary family. You know fighting for them is in their DNA so they are confident and maybe it helps them having different business(es) at the same time. Good for him! It’s important to do different things and have a good life, you know? If he’s taking the fight seriously or not it’s none of my business. You know me, I’m taking the fight seriously, and I’m going to try to win.”
Speaking of that legendary family, does Kato feel that there’s a little extra something to gain here, especially when Ralek Gracie is famous for beating the “Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba in Japan?
“Even in Japan some people were telling me ‘Gracie Hunter! Gracie Hunter!’ like they used to call Sakuraba, but you know, Ralek is not a beast. There is no hunting. There is nothing. There is just a professional fight. The family name is famous, but for me the name is not really famous in MMA so as an individual he is just my next opponent.”
Still, the potential exists for a marquee fight on a marquee card to propel Kato into the Middleweight title picture. And he’s very much aware of the golden opportunity in front of him.
“Yeah it will definitely (help) if I have a good win, if it’s a good show, if it’s a big knockout that you can remember. I think I will have good chances to have a title shot and I’m waiting for it, but if the fight is boring I don’t know, it will depend on the other fights, too. It will depend if the champion is finally fighting to protect his belt or not after a year so a lot of different parameters. For me, if I win by knockout I will definitely try to have that title shot.”
That sounds like a call out of Rafael Carvalho to me. Let’s see if he can jump to the head of the line later this evening. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.
Source:: mma mania