Brandon Halsey has heard it all before.
As a thickly muscled former collegiate wrestler, Bellator’s middleweight champion is aware of the suspicious glances and accusatory whispers that accompany his physique. In the weeks leading up to their title clash at Bellator 137, Kendall Grove has been quite vocal -- both on social media and in interviews -- on that very topic.
It began nearly a month before their title fight, when Grove took to Twitter to call Halsey a “juiced out white boy wrestler.” It has continued since then, with the lanky Hawaiian calling for a random drug testing ahead of their bout at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif, on May 15. (Note: The California State Athletic Commission has reportedly obliged).
Halsey has managed to take all the accusations in stride.
“It doesn’t faze me. People accuse me of being on juice. I’m all natural,” Halsey told Sherdog.com. “I’ve been tested plenty of times. When people look at someone and they have muscles they get that, ‘Oh he’s automatically on juice.’ It’s called hard work.
“God blessed me with good genetics and I work hard. The combination, it’s just what you get.”
The current climate in professional sports doesn’t lend itself to giving athletes the benefit of the doubt. After so many positive tests for performance enhancing drugs in recent months, both in MMA and elsewhere, people have reason to be skeptical. Halsey understands that.
“It obviously gives everybody a bad rap. One guy fails a drug test, and so everybody that has muscles, he must be using too,” Halsey said. “It kind of spoils it for everybody else -- the guys who are doing it the all natural way, the old fashioned way and just working hard, the way you expect.”
May 15 this skinny ass Hawaiian will beat that juiced out white boy wrestler. @BrandBullHalsey 4 more weeks till our wrestling match. Lol— kendallgrovemma (@kendallgrovemma) April 18, 2015
Not that most people care, but just took my 20th drug test. I hope a couple of poor losers have some evidence to back up their claims.— Brandon Halsey (@BrandBullHalsey) May 6, 2015
Halsey claims to have no hard feelings toward Grove, despite the UFC veteran’s pre-fight comments.
“I don’t really have ill will against the guy. It’s all business. Come May 15 I’m handling business; no personal vendetta against the guy. He’s a UFC veteran. I never look past anybody,” he said. “I’m trying to up my career and move on to bigger and better opponents. Nothing against Kendall Grove. He’s just the next guy in the way.”
The 28-year-old HB Ultimate product already dispatched one well-traveled veteran to claim Bellator gold, as he submitted Alexander Shlemenko in just 35 seconds last September. Like Shlemenko, Grove has plenty of experience under his belt. He rose to prominence on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and owns victories over the likes of Ed Herman, Alan Belcher, Evan Tanner, Joe Riggs and Derek Brunson over the course of pro career that began in 2003.
Halsey says he has definitely seen Grove fight over the years, but there isn’t any particular moment that stands out.
“I remember watching. I couldn’t recall any of his fights if you asked me what happened in his fight. I remember him fighting in the UFC when I used to watch when I was in college, and when he won the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ I think I watched a few episodes of that. But not too much,” Halsey said. “I didn’t really follow him. I’m a new evolution of fighting... MMA is evolving. I’m just trying to make my mark on MMA and step it up to the next level.”
It’s not surprising that Halsey believes his strength, the very attribute Grove has questioned, will make the difference in the cage at Bellator 137.
“I’m gonna be the more physical guy and superior with the [athletic ability]. I don’t think he’ll be able to handle it. Fighting off his back is gonna be the last place he wants to be,” Halsey said. “I feel like I’m the bigger, stronger guy, and I’m gonna be able to have better position on him, be able to outclass him in every single way. You’ll be surprised at the bounds I make from the last fight.”