Ed West is moving through his second Bellator tournament. | Photo: Keith Mills
Ed West has lost one of his last 10 fights, and he’s itching to get it back. Before he can exact revenge on Bellator Fighting Championships bantamweight ace Zach Makovsky, however, the rangy Arizonan must navigate through the minefield that is the company’s fifth-season 135-pound tournament. The next obstacle in West’s path is 22-year-old Brazilian prospect Eduardo Dantas, who he meets this Saturday on the main card of Bellator 55 at the Cocopah Resort and Casino in Yuma, Ariz.
This week, as he made final preparations at Apex MMA in Tucson, West spoke with Sherdog.com about smooching an overaggressive opponent, struggling to be noticed by Zuffa, and why he hates wrestlers.
Sherdog.com: It seemed like you had some beef with Luis Nogueira before your last fight and you didn’t exactly make up afterward. Can you talk about where that hostility came from?
West: Dude, I have no idea where that came from. I really don’t. I was kind of surprised by that, actually. I’m cool with everybody. I don’t have to get mad or pissed to fight somebody. Fighting, for me, is something that’s very natural. I can love you and still try and kill you. I don’t need to become emotional and upset in order to fight somebody.
Every time I saw Nogueira -- at the photo shoot, at the hotel -- I went up to him and shook his hand. At the weigh-ins, I even kicked him a little bow, like I usually do with my opponents, to give him that respect. But then the dude put one foot behind the other, got down and basically head-rammed me and tried to push me off the stage. I was just squared, I wasn’t really ready for that, and the dude just got up in my face. I didn’t really know how to respond. I was like, “Wow, this never happened to me before. I guess I gotta push him back, or slap him, or... no, no, no. I’ll kiss him.” So, I wound up giving him a little kiss, and I think that made him a little more mad. He was mad as hell. Even after the fight, at the press conference, he was saying that he felt that he won the fight and that he didn’t train to run marathons. I’m thinking, “Wow, I wonder how you say ‘sour grapes’ in Portuguese.”
He’s a competitor. I’m sure he trained real hard and he was just disappointed that he lost, but I fought my fight. I’m not there to fight other people’s fight. If I stood two feet in front of him and we just boxed it out, it may not have gone as good for me. What can I say? He fell into my trap and I played him like a Game Boy.
Sherdog.com: This is your second time through a Bellator bantamweight tournament. Is there something about the format you enjoy?
West: I really like Bellator, man. They treat me good. [Bellator CEO] Bjorn Rebney always gives me a lot of motivation and support. He’s a super, super cool guy and I’m glad he’s my boss. One thing I do like about Bellator is that they keep you busy, at least during the season. I know some guys who fight in other promotions, they only fight every five or six months. They got a lot of downtime and then they gotta get themselves back in shape and do all that. With Bellator, I’m really, really busy for the time I am in Bellator.
The only thing I don’t like is, when I’m not in the tournament, I tend to get shelved. I had that fight with Zach Makovsky in October of last year and then I sat around for a little while and didn’t have a fight. Luckily, I have a title in a show called Desert Rage and I went out in March to defend my title. I was hoping to maybe get a super-fight in Bellator, but it just wound up not materializing and I had a lot of downtime this year.
Sherdog.com: You’re going to be turning 28 on Oct. 30, right in the middle of the tournament. How does that fit into your schedule? Will you get to celebrate?
West: I never celebrate my birthday. I hate it. I hate my damn birthday. I don’t like being reminded that I’m one year closer to death and retirement. It’s just another day. It took my family a long time to figure that out, but I think now they’ve figured it out.
Sherdog.com: When I interviewed George Roop about a year ago, he hailed you as the greatest training partner he had. Are you guys still working together, and where did that friendship start?
West: George Roop is my Double Dragon. I train with him all the time, at least four or five days a week. He’ll be in my corner this Saturday, then we’re gonna come home, rest up and leave on Tuesday, and I’m gonna go be in his corner when he fights [Hatsu Hioki] in the UFC. He’s probably my No. 1 training partner and one of my very best friends.
We both fought on a show in Arizona called Rage in the Cage, and we had fought some of the same guys. I’d had my eye on him and he had his eye on me, thinking we were probably gonna have to fight each other one day. And then, one day, he wandered into the gym and, sure enough, we started sparring. Man, it was love at first punch. After six or seven rounds worth of sparring, I thought to myself, “I gotta get this guy’s number. I gotta train with this guy.” And right as I was about to go up to him and talk to him, he comes up to me and says, “Dude, I gotta get your number. We gotta train together.”
Sherdog.com: You’ve been pretty candid about wrestling not being your strong point. What was your feeling on going into a tournament filled with wrestlers?
West: Man, I hate damn wrestlers. I hate ‘em. My martial arts game, when I started training, revolved around damage. I wanted to choke guys, I wanted to try and break their arms and legs, I wanted to kick them in the head and I wanted to do damage. I didn’t see wrestling as that important, because I thought about it less as a damage type of thing. There are so many good, talented wrestlers coming into the sport and, for lack of a better description, they’re just hugging out their problems.
Sherdog.com: How have you been working to shore up your wrestling?
West: I got a lot of good dudes here in Tucson, Ariz., that I’ve been working really hard with. Just to name a few, there’s Tony Birchak, Freddie Lux, Joe Yager, Drew Fickett, just guys who are really savvy in the wrestling game. I’ve been having guys take shots on me and working on taking more guys down, as was evident, since I took down Nogueira. I’ve really been trying to make that my focus, ‘cause I know that it cost me my only loss in my last 10 fights. I lost that fight to Zach Makovsky merely because he was able to get the takedown when he wanted. He kinda showed me how I could be defeated and it’s been sticking with me. I wanna make sure I don’t lose a fight like that again.
I still firmly believe that there’s some alternate reality right now, some parallel universe, where I’m walking around with the Bellator title. I think that I just had a really poor performance that night and Zach had a very good performance that night.
Sherdog.com: Your next opponent in the tournament, Eduardo Dantas, is the only other guy who’s beaten Nogueira and also the only other guy in the field who’s your height. How much tape have you watched on him and what sort of traits have you identified in his game?
West: I’ve been able to watch a lot on Dantas, actually. I have a buddy in town, Tom, he’s a really good Internet detective and he’s found me quite a few of his fights. There are a couple things that stand out, but he’s slick. He’s a good, tough kid. He’s young, he’s hungry, but I think there are a lot of things that I do better than him, and I’m definitely gonna try to exploit those weaknesses that he has.
I know this kid has a lot of hype around him. Everybody thinks he’s the next coming of the messiah and he’s gonna win the tournament. But, you know what? Everybody thought Nogueira was gonna beat me, too. For some reason, I never get a snowball’s chance in hell at beating any of these guys. I don’t know why. I’m gonna go in there and I’m gonna take it to the kid, and I’m gonna beat him. I’m gonna steal all his thunder.
Sherdog.com: You’re fighting in Yuma on Saturday, basically a home fight, which probably means lots of local interviews, friends and family asking for tickets, etc. How does that work for you?
West: It doesn’t. Friends and family, stay the hell away from my fight. I don’t want you there.
Obviously, fighting in Yuma, I feel, gives me a hometown advantage. I think Dantas’ corner knows that and they’re probably putting a lot of pressure on him, telling him, “It’s his hometown. It’s his backyard. You have to finish him. You gotta beat him.” And you know what? Good luck with that, kid. It’s never happened. I’ve never been finished in any of my fights. I’ve never really been put in any danger. I’m a very smart, very elusive fighter, so if this kid wants to bring it hard, I’m gonna bring it harder.
Sherdog.com: Marcos Galvao and Alexis Vila will be fighting in the other semifinal on Saturday. Who do you see going through from that side of the bracket?
West: Actually, I’m gonna do something a little controversial and I’m gonna pick Galvao. I just think that Alexis Vila has so much momentum behind him now that everybody’s hyping him up, really making a big deal out of his knockout of Joe Warren ... But, let’s face it, man: Alexis Vila threw that hook and, rather than have his hands up, Joe Warren reached both his hands out to grab him. That’s what happens: People get in trouble and they revert to their base instinct, and Joe Warren’s base instinct was to Greco-clinch. He just got caught with that left hook. Alexis Vila hits very hard and he caught him right on the chin. It can happen to anybody and it happened to Joe Warren that night. But I think that Galvao has fought a lot of really high-quality dudes, moreso than Alexis Vila. Galvao has good hands, a good standup game, and a really good ground game. I’m just gonna make the controversial prediction. I think Galvao is gonna pull that out.
Sherdog.com: Outside of the UFC, Bellator is obviously putting on the best bantamweight fights in MMA right now. Even with that, is there a desire to get in the UFC and fight the top guys? Does being ranked matter to you at all?
West: No, not really. I tried to get in the WEC for the longest time. After I got out of the IFL, I went back down to 145 and won five straight fights. I tried real hard to get in the WEC, to try and get noticed by them, and I just couldn’t seem to make it happen. Maybe I just wasn’t what they were looking for at the time, but I tried. I worked with a couple managers who had ties, already had guys in the WEC or the UFC, and none of them were able to get me in. I even went as far as going down the UFC office and dropping off a demo tape. I was trying whatever I could.
But now, I’m with a company who does nothing but give me confidence and tell me how much they appreciate me, and I’m able to make a living at it. For the longest time, I’d be fighting for $500 and a couple tickets, man. I don’t want to go back to that. Right now, I’m with Bellator and they’re taking good care of me. They’re treating me good and they’re allowing me to live my dream, which is to fight and support myself doing it. I’m doing really well in that regard right now. I’m making good money and I’m enjoying very much what I do.