Daniel Weichel is taking a more professional approach to fighting. | Photo: Jeff Miller/Sherdog.com
Daniel Weichel was victimized by unfortunate timing in 2014, winning Bellator MMA’s Season 10 featherweight tournament just as the promotion unceremoniously ushered its bracket format out the back door.
So, while consecutive victories over Scott Cleve, Matt Bessette and Desmond Green would have once placed Weichel at the top of the 145-pound waiting list, in the Scott Coker era, “The Weasel” still has some more work to do.
Weichel faces former featherweight king Pat Curran in the Bellator 133 co-main event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., on Friday night. The evening’s main card, which is headlined by a middleweight showdown between Melvin Manhoef and Alexander Shlemenko, airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
You could forgive Weichel if he was bitter about not receiving the title shot promised by the old regime, but the 30-year-old German is taking a professional approach to his current situation.
“My main goal is definitely to become the champion, but I have the mentality if I want to be the champion I have to beat everybody in front of me,” Weichel told Sherdog.com. “Fighting one of the best featherweights in the world, that’s in the right direction. Sooner or later I will be the champion. I know that for sure. I worked so much and so hard for it. I sacrificed a lot.”
Weichel says that he has been given no assurances that he will be granted a crack at featherweight gold with a win over Curran. That too, is fine with the Team MMA Spirit representative because looking ahead isn’t part of the plan.
“At the moment, there’s only Pat Curran on my mind,” he said. “I don’t think about what’s after that fight. I just have the fight with Pat Curran in my mind. Every fight I have feels like the championship bout. I prepare for that like it would be a championship bout, and I think that gets the best out of me.”
If Weichel’s carefully crafted pre-fight clichés serve to mask some sort of underlying resentment, it certainly doesn’t show. The former M-1 Global champion has gradually perfected his approach to the sport -- both in and out of the cage -- since beginning his professional career in 2002.
While he says that transformation has become more significant over the past couple years, it truly began to take shape when he became serious about the management of his career.
In his early years of fighting, Weichel found himself entrenched in MMA’s Wild West culture, taking on all comers regardless of weight class or circumstance. That philosophy resulted in a résumé that includes losses to big-name foes such as Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Thiago Tavares as well as a victory against Dennis Siver. Some of those bouts were contested as high as 170 pounds, a full two divisions above where Weichel resides today.
“All that time before it was just yeah, if you give me a fight I would accept, no matter who I’m fighting. I believe you need a person who looks at it from the outside. As a fighter you have the mentality that you want to fight, and sometimes you make mistakes when you’re too excited taking fights,” he said.
Changing management made a big difference for Weichel, who was previously content to eschew weight cutting and “just travel around and take fights.”
“I didn’t care about weight class. I didn’t care about who I was fighting,” he explained. “That was also because I wasn’t really managed. I had no proper management with me. Six years ago, I changed my management and from that time on I got to experience what professional management is like -- how to train under professional management in a professional gym with coaches and everything.”
Weichel’s win-loss record never really suffered all that much, but he has been on a particularly good run of late, winning 16 of his last 18 outings since 2009.
Still, he doesn’t regret his past decisions. Without the losses to the Daleys and Hardys of the world, perhaps there would be no Bellator career.
“I think I wouldn’t change anything because I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. “I loved the way I lived my life. The experiences I had were important for the person I am today.”
That person is a fighter who appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough in Bellator MMA. If fight fans were not aware of Weichel before, a victory over Curran could turn some more heads in a hurry.
Weichel believes he has taken all the steps necessary to succeed.
“I feel I have the tools to finish him. In a fight with such an experienced complete fighter, I have to prepare to fight anywhere,” he said. “I think my team and I, we did a pretty good job preparing for the fight, so I feel confident going out there.”