Darrion Caldwell’s loss could very well be Joe Warren’s gain.
When Caldwell suplexed and choked Warren for a dominant first-round triumph at Bellator 151 in March, it appeared that a changing of the guard had occurred in the the promotion’s bantamweight division. However, Caldwell’s anointment as the “Next Big Thing” was derailed by Joe Taimanglo via third-round guillotine choke in a No. 1 contender’s bout this past July.
Suddenly, the door is open for Warren to get right back into title contention with a victory over Sirwan Kakai in the Bellator 161 co-headliner on Friday night (online betting). The card takes place at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas and airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
“I’m proud of the kid [Caldwell]. I’ve known him for a lot of years. But he jumped in. He could have waited and had his title shot,” Warren told Sherdog.com. “Instead he took a fight for some money, and like I said, it’s very unpredictable in that cage. You never know what’s gonna happen. In a wrestling match, nine out of 10 times the better wrestler is gonna win. That’s not the case in the cage.
“He lost that fight after winning the first two rounds and that took his chance at getting that belt away. That puts him back on the bus. Now I’m back in a comfortable position where I have to get this win against this tough veteran opponent to get an opportunity to beat up [135-pound champion Eduardo Dantas] again.”
While Warren looked outclassed against Caldwell, appearances might not be all that they seem. The former two-division champ claims that he suffered an injury early in that fight that severely hindered his ability to compete.
“It sucks losing. I’m not used to it. It’s a hard thing for me to do. That being said, I dislocated my kneecap and tore my MCL off that first takedown,” Warren said. “I was in a weird place that I’m not used to: stuck on the ground not able to stand up. And I stood up and got body slammed and choked. It’s the most unpredictable place in the world you can be is in that cage. And when things go bad, they go real bad. That’s kind of what happened. It was disappointing for me and my family because we didn’t really get to fight Darrion…Usually I don’t get hurt in that cage and I”m very durable. It was a terrible thing that happened. When things go wrong sometimes they snowball.”
Warren took approximately six months off to rehabilitate the injury, which he says he initially incurred during his wrestling days. With no surgery required, the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” was able to make a relatively quick return against Kakai, a two-time UFC veteran.
Considering that Taimanglo missed weight against Caldwell, Warren believes that with a win over Kakai he could be sitting pretty for a shot at Dantas, who he defeated to claim bantamweight gold at Bellator 128 in October 2014.
“Joe didn’t make weight last fight, which is not something that promotions take very lightly, especially if he’s going to fight for a title,” Warren said. “I think the fans want to see the rematch between me and Dantas. I’m the only person that beat him. We have a lot of history. I think we both want to fight also. That said, I need to do what I have to do to get the win, and we’ll see what happens in the future. I’m not a person that looks past what’s gonna happen in the next fight, so I’m focused on that person. I feel like this is more of a dangerous opponent than Dantas will be for me.”
The 26-year-old Kakai split a pair of bouts in the UFC before signing with Bellator MMA. In his debut with the California-based promotion, the fighter known as “Zohan” fell to the aforementioned Taimanglo via unanimous decision. The fact that Kakai previously competed in the Octagon means very little to Warren.
“I don’t give two s—-s. You’ve seen what happens when UFC veterans are coming over to Bellator. We’re almost having to give them victories,” Warren said. “This Bellator cage is as tough as any cage in the world. People have a narrow mind thinking that only the best fighters fight in the UFC, and that is wrong. The Bellator fighters are as tough as they’ve ever been....it hasn’t changed, they’re just bringing new names in for us to beat.”
While it’s still unclear what the future holds for Warren even if all goes as planned on Friday night, he would jump at another opportunity to vie for Bellator MMA gold. If that chance comes against Dantas — even better.
“I think the toughest thing to do is to beat a battle tested warrior wrestler like me,” he said. “Striking only goes so far in that cage. I’d be honored to get an opportunity to fight for another belt in the Bellator cage -- especially against Dantas. I believe that’s a fun fight that we all want to see. I don’t know if I have his number, but I’ll definitely punch his ticket when it comes to us fighting again. I know he wants that fight. I know we both want that fight.”