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5 Defining Moments: Gregory Babene


Shaking off a series of losses in mixed martial arts can be a tough row to hoe. When factoring in progressing age and descent from peak years, the daunting task seems downright impossible at times. Bellator MMA middleweight contender Gregory Babene likes operating against the grain. Between May 2008 and September 2009, the Frenchman suffered through a six-fight losing streak, and while others may have lost hope inside such a downward bend, Babene stayed the course and marched on. Now 40, he finds himself on a run of eight straight victories ahead of his Bellator Champions Series 2 title eliminator opposite Costello van Steenis this Friday at Accor Arena in Paris.

Ahead of Babene’s pivotal showdown with van Steenis at 185 pounds, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:

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1. His launch into MMA was strong.


Babene made his professional mixed martial arts debut on May 24, 2004, when he met Meysam Auakhti at Total Fight 3 in Budapest, Hungary. He won the fight by unanimous decision. With two more victories under that promotion’s banner, he went on to challenge Damir Mirenic on the World Free Fight Challenge stage, earning a first-round technical knockout. “Blade” would encounter his first career loss against Ryuichi Murata at Real Rhythm “5th Stage” in November 2006, succumbing to a first-round TKO. Following the setback, he rattled off two more victories and one no contest before enduring the worst slump of his career.

2. A torrent of failure tested his spirit.


A six-loss skid was undoubtedly the darkest period of Babene’s professional career. The rut started with a first-round submission loss to Alexander Shlemenko at BSCF “Siberian Challenge 2” on May 18, 2008. Five more losses in five different promotions followed, including an armbar submission loss to Karl Amoussou and a devastating knockout loss to Bruno Carvalho .

3. He showed resolve in breaking the cycle.


Babene pulled himself out of the clutches of defeat to the heights of triumph with a redefined strategy and mentality. A submission victory over Alavutdin Gadjiev in December 2009 must have felt like a ray of sunshine in a long tunnel of setbacks. He kept the wheels turning with a head kick knockout of Christophe Daffreville and a pair of technical knockouts against Gregor Herb and Igor Savelyev. Perhaps the most impressive win in that stretch would be the one against Shamil Nurmagomedov—a formidable Russian menace who was on a five-fight winning streak prior to their encounter. It took Babene a little over a minute to crack “Tank” with punches at the FEFoMP Mayor’s Cup 2010.

4. He refuses to let defeat define him.


The Frenchman’s record reflects a pattern in which he responds to losses with equal measures of success. Take the stretch between October 2010 and September 2012 as a case in point. “Blade” answered three losses to Antoni Chmielewski, Alavutdin Gadjiev and Michal Materla with triumphs over Vladimir Katykhin, Alexander Dolotenko and Enoc Solves Torres.

5. A lasting bloom set the stage for a late harvest.


Fight fans have witnessed a 2.0 version of Babene since June 2014. Since then, Babene has embarked on an eight-fight winning streak, collecting victories over the likes of Charlie Ward, Mike Shipman and Tony Zanko. His career has charted unprecedented heights in what many might consider his waning years. Equally impressive is the fact that all of those victories have come by stoppage, with seven submissions and one knockout.
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