Leo Leite’s life has changed a lot over the past 12 months.
The decorate judoka signed an exclusive deal with Bellator after racking up a perfect 10-0 record in MMA, capturing the Legacy FC middleweight and light heavyweight belts in the proccess, but his promotional debut didn’t go as planned.
Leite, who competed in both divisions throughout his MMA career, tasted defeat for the first time at Bellator 186, losing a decision to former champion Phil Davis, so he’s made some adjustments.
The Brazilian fighter finally returns to action at Friday night’s Bellator 202 in Tackerville versus Chris Honeycutt. Being back to middleweight means “no chocolate and no pizza” in his daily routine, and the side effect is better performances.
“I feel way better at middleweight,” Leite told MMA Fighting. “I’m faster, stronger, I train better. Everything gets better when I’m lighter. I have no problem losing weight. But I like (fighting at light heavyweight) too. If they need me one they at 205, I’m in.”
The lessons learned in his first professional loss at Bellator 186 is “respect your body,” Leite explained. “Don’t fight when you don’t have proper time to prepare and be ready. I only had five weeks to train and suffered a back injury, spent a week in the hospital, so I only had four weeks of training really.”
Honeycutt, who only lost twice in nine Bellator appearances, is coming off a loss to Rafael Lovato Jr. last December. “The Cutt” won four in a row prior to that, including the second-round finish of Kevin Casey.
“He appears to be a strong guy, has powerful overhands, heavy ground and pound and is tough to be swept,” Leite said. “But I worked hard to neutralize his takedowns and impose my takedowns. We’re both grapplers, there’s nowhere to run. We will go to the ground eventually, so we’ll see who stays on his back longer.”
“I can clearly see that (my judo) is a differential when I train with wrestlers here in the United States. They are not used to it. I think that can be a factor in this fight.”
The Brazilian Top Team talent finished his training camp in Orlando, training alongside UFC fighter Ronaldo Souza with coach Julien Williams at Fusion X-cel, and felt great going toe to toe with one of the best middleweights on the planet for two and a half weeks.
“He’s also a black belt in judo, so when you manage do so things in training against someone at his level, people that know how to defend it, that means you’re on the right track,” Leite said. “I had a great time training in Orlando. Guys that I didn’t even knew went out of their way to help me, spar with me. I really enjoyed the vibe of the team.”
At his best weight and after what he calls a great camp, Leite expects a finish at Bellator 202.
“I’ll make sure this fight doesn’t go to the judges,” Leite said. “I see myself winning on the feet, because I worked a lot on my striking, and also on the ground, because if I put him on his back he’ll hardly get back up.”