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Bellator 189: Sam Sicilia talks openweight tourneys, Rory MacDonald & getting a career restart

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Ahead of Bellator 189, Sam Sicilia talks fighting philosophy, career restart, Rory MacDonald, openweight tourneys and more with Stephie Haynes.

Tonight, in Thackerville, Oklahoma, the Winstar Resort & Casino will play host to Bellator 189 where former UFC featherweight slugger Sam Sicilia will make his promotional debut against Marcos Galvao. Sicilia is looking to make a fresh start with Bellator, where he feels he has more freedom to fully explore his skillset.

In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Sam discussed the opportunity he’s been given to re-invent himself, training environment, the pressure of trying to maintain a “brawler” image, fighting philosophy, respect for Rory MacDonald’s willingness to jump in the heavyweight GP and more.

The Restart

It’s a great thing for me because I’ve been looking for that restart. When you get a loss, you want to go avenge it as soon as you can, or even when you win, you want to keep that momentum going. These aren’t just the things I’m going though, they’re things that every fighter has to deal with.

Mostly, it’s stepping back and getting a good look at the big picture, taking a breath and then moving forward. That’s just where I’m at, and I think it’s a good spot to be in. I feel very positive, I’m happy, and I feel really good about the future. I’m really grateful to be here and now, I just want to compete.

Training Environment

We’ve always had a group of passionate people that want to compete, that want to move forward in the sport, but we’ve always had to rent gym space and move around a lot. Now, we’ve got our own place that we’ve recently broke ground on. Having a place of our own makes all the difference, not to mention the consistency factor. We don’t have to share gym space anymore, and trust me, things like that can really affect a training camp.

I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere, to make a new home for myself, but being a part of this gym, of putting down real roots and having something of our own, it’s something I care about. It’s like being a new homeowner. It inspires you to do everything you can to make it the best it can be. It was kind of like a pipe dream for such a long time, and to finally see it put into action was a huge deal for us. We’re very proud of it and it’s a great thing to be a part of.

Pressures of having the “Brawler” moniker

I’ve tried to break free of that, too. Maybe it’s the pressure of the bright lights on the biggest stage, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes into being an entertainer and an athlete. I’d get to the cage and sometimes think to myself, ‘You know what, I can win this fight, I can take this guy down and he’d absolutely die underneath me, he will never get back up. But once you get there, you’re just looking for that big knockout, because that’s what they want to see, that’s what they expect of you.

Maybe it’s not even so much the UFC all the time, but you feel like you have to deliver that to them. I don’t want to sound like I’m making an excuse, because I’m not, but you know why they brought you there, why you’re fighting this guy or that one.

Doo-Ho Choi Fight

If I went in there and took him down and was boring, they’d have been like, ‘Okay, that’s not why you’re here’ kind of deal, I feel like. Fighting Choi in Korea when nobody really knew who he was at the time, and he looks like a fucking emoji, but you get in there and he’s tougher than shit.

That’s why I feel like I’m in a good spot now. All these things I used to factor in, sometimes unconsciously… If you’re in a good spot, you can take a step back, look at the big picture, and ask yourself, ‘What am I trying to get out of it?’ I didn’t really feel like I could do that all the time, because it wasn’t about what I wanted.

Fighting Philosophy

I feel like if you make it about anything more than doing your damnedest, then you’re kind of an asshole. That’s what it’s about. If you go out there and lay it on the line, however that looks, that’s what it’s really about. That’s what I want to do. I want to do this on my terms. I don’t want to factor in all this other stuff.

I’ve had fights I’ve lost that I’m still proud of. I lost to Benitez where I got choked out, but I got choked out going for it. Then I had the fight with Tucker, and I felt so bad about that fight, like worse than I’ve ever felt about any fight. If it had been a gunfight, I feel like I died with bullets in my gun. I was scared about my job and stupid shit, and that doesn’t help you at all, but that’s not an excuse, I want to make that clear.

I’ve reached a point where I’m like, ‘What can happen that hasn’t already happened?’ You’re afraid of failure? So what, I’ve woken up to somebody else getting his hand raised. You’re afraid of getting cut? I didn’t get re-signed, so I’ve been there, too. I can fight somewhere else and do my damnedest, because that’s what it’s about, doing your damnedest.

Bellator Kickboxing

We all train kickboxing and every fighter in Bellator should want to compete in that. That’s a big draw for me, especially if there’s a dry spell where you have to wait to get booked for an MMA fight. I love that the opportunity to do that is there for me, and I’d love to try it out.

Rory MacDonald

When you hear a guy like Rory say that he wants to be in the [heavyweight] tournament, you laugh for a second at first, but then you think about it, and you know that guy is dead serious. He probably said it with a dead serious face, and I love it. I thought that was awesome of him to step up like that.

*Bonus Question*

If Bellator had an openweight tournament, would you be interested in competing in it?

Of course. Absolutely. You see all these guys picking their matches, so let me ask you this: You train fighting all the time, and somebody taps you on the shoulder and wants to fight. What are you gonna do? You gonna go throw them on a scale? Hell no. You do this to scrap and fight and test yourself. You’re damned right I’d be right in the middle of an openweight tourney.

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