Mike Richman scored yet another brutal finish in Bellator when he stopped Mitch Jackson in their Season 8 featherweight tournament bout on Feb. 7.
The win was Richman’s third first-round victory in four Bellator fights, but this one was particularly rewarding considering the bad blood he had with his opponent’s camp.
“It was mostly just his training partners, his coach, saying, ‘Oh, Mike Richman is a bum. He fights bums. He has a padded record. He’s being coddled.’ This was three years ago, whatever, and then there’s always just kind of been the rivalry,” Richman told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I’ve always wanted to fight him. Nothing ever materialized. It felt really good to show a lot of the Minnesota fans that I’m a far superior fighter now. He should have fought me three years ago. He probably would have had a better chance then.”
After stunning Jackson multiple times in the opening round, Richman ended the fight with a head kick and a series of hammer fists. He didn’t exactly look gun-shy coming off his stoppage loss to Shahbulat Shamhalaev in November.
“I just to love to get in there and fight,” Richman said. “I love to stay in the pocket. I love to be close and I love to exchange and I just love to fight, to just straight-up fight. I wasn’t going to be gun-shy. I’m extremely confident in my chin.”
After all, it wasn’t his chin that Shamhalaev hit.
“Shamhalaev caught me square in my eyeball,” Richman said. “It was one of those weird shots I’ve never experienced. I thought my eyeball popped when he hit me. That was like the first thing he hit. If I were to fight Shamhalaev again, I’d stand in the pocket and I’d be looking to take his head off.”
Richman also said he’d fight a little smarter in a rematch, though, and not be so aggressive. Against Jackson, he was more patient and still got the first-round finish.
“I’m fully, 100-percent confident in my skills now,” Richman explained. “A lot of that has to do with me training at The Academy, with me training with high-level wrestlers. My confidence in my counter wrestling and my ability to get back up when I’m taken down has really helped my striking game flourish.”
Richman’s takedown defense could be put to the test in the tournament semifinals. He’s scheduled to meet Alexandre Bezerra, who advanced with an armbar submission of Genair da Silva.
“I think I match up well with a lot of people and I think I’ll make exciting fights against anybody,” Richman said. “Me against ‘Popo’ is going to be super exciting. It’s going to be a real fun fight. I’m going to do my game plan and try to put him away like I want to do with everyone else. I want to fight to finish, not just fight to win.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:25:53).