Bellator 170: “Ortiz vs Sonnen” comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this Saturday night (Jan. 21, 2017), featuring a Spike TV-televised main event that is bound to be a box office ratings sensation — “The Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz vs. “The Bad Guy” Chael Sonnen at Light Heavyweight.
Earlier in the night on the “Prelims” portion of the undercard, however, a familiar face for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fans will look to jump start his career in a brand new promotion at Middleweight. “King” Kevin Casey 9-5-1 (2 NC) was a member of Chael Sonnen’s team on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17, but wound up suffering a technical knockout loss to Josh Samman during the Finale event, ending his first UFC run. He battled back, though, and after three straight wins in RFA he returned to the promotion at UFC 175.
After being cut for a second time, Casey is looking to make a brand new start in a new organization. And he’ll have that chance this weekend against Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Keith Berry (15-13, 1 NC). Casey recently spoke with MMAmania.com about his desire to make a name for himself in Bellator, what he’s learned from his mistakes in the past, and how he feels about once again sharing a spotlight with his former TUF coach.
“You know, I spent seven weeks with Chael and he was really hands on, and there every day, and very supportive of me personally and all of the team. So, to be fighting on the same card, I already reached out to him, and all the vibes are positive. It’s just exciting all the way around to see how big Bellator is promoting the fight. It’s at The Forum and the energy is there, the card is stacked, I mean it’s just — it’s amazing.”
Another “amazing” thing is that this isn’t the only coincidence of note on the card. The Forum was also the site where Casey fought Elvis Mutapcic to a draw at UFC 199. For Casey, though, the venue is more personal than one fight.
“Any time I can fight in Inglewood, it’s an honor. I’m born in Inglewood and I grew up in the apartment building like literally across the street from The Forum. I remember meeting some of the basketball players from the Lakers because they used to go to the gas station that was right there. It’s just a feeling of everything coming full circle. The last time I fought there I was under tremendous pressure. I felt that I won the fight, they called it a draw so, it definitely left me with a feeling of being unsatisfied BUT — I’m back.”
He’s back and he’s ready to prove himself against Keith Berry on Saturday night. Berry may have a journeyman’s record, but Casey gives him respect for his experience level and how he may have benefited from a two year hiatus.
“I look at Keith Berry as someone who’s very dangerous. He’s a guy who has upward of 30 fights, he has a lot of experience, he’s obviously taken time off and chosen to make himself evolve — otherwise I don’t think he would’ve come back to the sport. You can completely change who you are in that kind of time. For me to look at what he previously did or previously came from would be a bad move for me. I’ve been in the sport long enough to know that you can change within two camps, and he’s had enough time to have four or five.”
Casey has his head screwed on straight about his opponent in this Bellator debut and he’s taking every opportunity available to improve himself and his performance before the fight.
“I worked with Taylor Ramsdell for my strength and conditioning and he’s phenomenal. He’s broken my whole body down and we’ve rebuilt it up from scratch. There was a transitional period where I wasn’t exactly sure where my next home was going to be, and he kept me focused, he kept me on the grind, he kept me hungry. I just feel physically amazing — the best shape of my life.”
He’s also had a chance to work with one of Bellator 170’s headline fighters to improve his overall ground game.
“The Gracie family has always been my foundation. I train a lot with Ryron Gracie. He’s a world class excellent jiu-jitsu coach as well as a competitor himself. I got an opportunity to train some with Kron Gracie for this camp, and I trained with Ralek Gracie.”
His long tenure with the Gracie family goes back to befriending Rickson Gracie’s son as a youth, but he’s also evolving as a fighter with another famous name — one with a history in K-1 and UFC.
“For my striking I worked with Antoni Hardonk out of Dynamix MMA, and he has the Dutch kickboxing style. I started with him two or three camps ago, and the stuff that he’s showing me is such a high level, the technique is so high level, I almost feel that I rushed taking fights too soon before I had an opportunity to really gel with the system.”
With the benefit of working with the Gracies, being local to the area, and having so many friends on the card, Casey feels he’s a natural to be the crowd favorite when the fighters are introduced at The Forum.
“100%! I’m well represented here. There will be a lot of people in the arena that will have their energy in unison with mine. It’s my time. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in the fight game. I think that now everything is really melding together.”
Don’t miss a chance to see the new and improved “King” Kevin Casey on Jan. 21 against Keith Berry at Bellator 170.
Complete audio of our interview is above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.
Source:: mma mania