The month of November holds a special place in the heart of Bellator featherweight title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez. It’s the month where he had his first amateur MMA bout, his first professional bout, and now the month in which he competes in his very first world title bout. On November 15, 2018 the 17-3 Sanchez will challenge Bellator featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire at Bellator 209 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Before stepping into the cage for his very first world title fight, Sanchez caught up with Bloody Elbow to discuss making it to the top without having to talk trash, as well as his take on “The Matador” vs. “Pitbull” matchup. Sanchez even touched on his coach, Duke Roufus’ decision to throw in the towel for his pupil Anthony Pettis at UFC 229.
- After three-straight co-main events, four-straight wins, two of which were world champions, you are finally getting a shot at the belt. You aren’t known to talk trash or disrespect your opponent, and have gotten to the top based on merit. What does it mean to you to get this far based on your performances in the cage alone?
“It means everything. I live by that, you know? I let the fists do the talking. I let my performances be my entertainment, and I let that bring my fanbase. Even if it’s not as big as others, personally I don’t care. I get paid the same. I’m just going to go out there and do my job. I focus more on training. I focus more on improving my overall skill inside of the cage to have a bigger fanbase. Each and every time I’m in there, I want to have a better performance than the last one. Every and every single time. I want to be better than the last one.”
- Bellator 209 is going down in Tel Aviv, Israel. Have you ever been on that side of the Atlantic?
“I’ve never been on that side of the world. I’ve been to countries on our side of the world, not that side of the world, so I’m excited. First time. I’m a man of God. I’m going to go out there and win the title on God’s holy land. Truly fortunate, truly blessed, so I’m excited.”
- How do you think the location will affect your camp in terms of traveling, getting adjusted, and specifically the weight cut?
“That’s a bunch of bullshit. To me, if you’re a fighter, this isn’t like oh we can play at this game or this time or this and that. If I had to fight right now in the state that I’m in, tired, beat-up, sore, hungry, whatever. If I got to wake up at six o’clock in the morning and someone’s causing some trouble outside of my house, I have to defend myself. It’s the true point of being a fighter. I’m a martial artist, of course stay humble, respectful, disciplined, but at the end of the day, I’m not an athlete. It’s not a sport to me. I’m a fighter.”
- You train at Roufusport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which is the home to many elite fighters like Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren, Anthony Pettis, and more. Who specifically have you been working with for this camp?
“Everybody, man. White belts, blue belts, brown belts, black belts, kids, you name it. Grandmas; grandpas; everybody. I keep the white belt mentality. I can learn from anything from anyone at any time. There is no knowledge that’s not power. I’m always hungry and have that desire, that’s my passion to want to learn, to want to get better. So, if I’m teaching or if I’m learning from someone, it’s always me getting that in through my process, for myself. I don’t do fight camps. I don’t do what I specifically, like yeeeah I make adjustments for my training, but I’m always constantly training. When you’re always constantly training, you don’t have anything to worry about.”
- Your head coach Duke Roufus made the executive decision at UFC 229 to not allow Anthony Pettis to answer the bell in between round two and three out of safety of his fighter. This is an unfortunately rare occurrence in modern day MMA, and at minimum, throwing in the towel shows care for one’s pupil. Do you think it’s something that should happen more often?
“Absolutely. Nobody knows Anthony better than Duke. They both got that connection together, and he’s got that connection with me as well, and Sergio who I just bumped fists with right now. All these interviewers and people in the media, it’s horse shit. The people who comment too saying, ‘ah wow, that shouldn’t have been stopped. Ah, let them fight. Warrior.’ He is a warrior. Look at his face. look at Ferguson, both warriors. In boxing you see it all the time too. You going to call a guy a schmuck for throwing in the towel when he knows that alright, there’s no need to do it right here. I live to fight another day.
“Not only intelligently defending himself, the man’s a father. The man’s a business man. You have to have a life after fighting as well, too. Don’t get me wrong, I want to leave it all on the line and die in there too, but understand I’ve got things I got to do. I’ve got a life outside of this and plans after retirement. So, I think it was the right decision. It was rough. He’s had so many hand breaks as well, hand issues. It sucks and it’s unfortunate. Would have loved to see a third round. I wish that that wouldn’t have happened, but it is what it is. You have to look out for the safety of the fighter…”
“In boxing, we’ve seen fatalities. In MMA, we’ve seen people get paralyzed. Same thing with boxing as well, too. Seeing as it’s the purest, rawest combat sport out there, for people’s entertainment. Every fighter has to realize, whether they have kids, or a wife, or a family, everyone has that, they got to realize, being smart. It’s one thing being the toughest guy in the world, tough as nails, all this crap whatever, you’re willing to leave it all out there, but still, health and safety of a fighter.”
- A lot of you guys are true fighters and legitimately willing to die out there, so I think it’s important to have a coach that knows you really well to save you from yourself sometimes, if that’s what was going on. So, you would have no issue if Coach Roufus made that call in one of your fights?
“You know, it would suck, but if I truly knew I could not fight, I can’t fight. It’s the truth. Hey coach, this is broken or this happened to me, I can’t breathe or I can’t walk. You can’t intelligently defend yourself. We’re not punching bags. That’s the problem that people think. They think it’s like ah well he can’t fight. Let’s say he did want to go out there. What is he just going to put his right hand up and know not throw a right hand and just ball up like this? Same thing in boxing. If a guy is not intelligently defending himself, if a guy is just taking punishment, then it is completely unnecessary, unnecessary punishment taken.
“So, you see Lomachenko, guys throw in the towel against him. You’ve seen it time and time again with other fighters too, broken ribs, broken jaw, broken whatever. If someone cannot intelligently defend themselves, there’s no reason whatsoever to go out there and just ball up and put your hands up or just crumble. We’re not punching bags, punching bags with eyeballs. If you’re not throwing back, or grappling, or can wrestle or do something to win the fight or stay in the fight, it’s unnecessary to be in there.”
- Before you get out of here, let’s get your official prediction for your Bellator 209 title fight:
“I don’t predict deez tings because I’m ready for everyone. I always say it like this, I’m prepared to go five rounds hard, ready for a war, but I don’t think I’m going to have to. I believe I can stop him.”