Brandon Halsey previously trained with Alexander Shlemenko. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Although he won’t step into the cage against Alexander Shlemenko until Friday night, Brandon Halsey laid out the blueprint to beat Bellator’s middleweight champion some five months ago.
Before Tito Ortiz submitted Shlemenko in the first round of their light heavyweight bout at Bellator 120, Halsey helped the former UFC champion to develop a game plan.
“Oh yeah. I was working with Tito [for] that fight,” Halsey told Sherdog.com. “I was the one that exploited that was what he’s got to do to win. I saw that game plan early on -- even before the Tito fight -- if I was to go up against Shlemenko.”
Halsey, who captured Bellator’s Season 10 middleweight crown, will square off with the Russian in the Bellator 126 main event at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. The evening’s main card airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
In addition to planning for Shlemenko, Halsey also got a more personal view of his opponent when “Storm” would come to train at HB Ultimate for his camps. As Halsey’s career advanced, he did his best to avoid working too closely with the 185-pound ruler.
“I had the pleasure to work with him a few times, and I was able to learn his style and his type of fighting,” Halsey said. “So that helped shed some light and [gave me] some perspective.
“I started getting to that point where I’m getting to title contention. I don’t want to start training with this guy. I have no animosity toward the guy, but it’s business. You don’t want to get acclimated with a guy that you’re going to be fighting in the future.”
Halsey turned pro in January 2012 and entered the Bellator cage by his third fight. It didn’t take long for the former NCAA All-American wrestler at Cal State Bakersfield to figure out that he was destined for big things within the promotion.
“Early on when I signed with Bellator, it was always a goal to fight for a title. When I feel like I really made my jump was between the Joe Yager and Hector Ramirez fights. [That] is where I felt like, I’m ready in the next year to contend for a title,” he said.
“It was [a matter of] getting comfortable with everything. Being able to tie in my wrestling with my jiu-jitsu and striking.”
Halsey is 5-0 with Bellator overall, including a first-round armbar victory against former title challenger Brett Cooper on July 25 that clinched his date with Shlemenko. While Halsey is well aware of his opponent’s striking prowess, he believes he can handle most anything the champion throws at him.
That doesn’t mean he has designs on abandoning his game plan to prove a point.
“You never want to go out in a fight and be reckless. There’s always a game plan; there’s always a strategy behind everything,” Halsey said. “I’ve been preparing for worst case scenarios, so I’m more than happy to stay on my feet if that’s what it comes down to.”
While Halsey is still relatively young in his MMA career -- especially when compared to Shlemenko -- he feels that his tools will eventually trump any lack of experience.
“It doesn’t really concern me at all because I know what I’m bringing to the table,” he said. “I know my skill set. I’m the faster, stronger, more athletic opponent. I’m going to overwhelm when I get inside that [cage].”