Alessio Sakara will fight on home soil for the fifth time under the Bellator MMA banner when he locks horns with Kent Kauppinen in the Bellator 211 headliner on Saturday at RDS Stadium in Genoa, Italy. The 26-year-old Kauppinen enters the cage on a two-fight losing streak, while Sakara has won four of his past five bouts.
“I never change my training schedule,” Sakara told Sherdog.com. “I travel from Italy to American Top Team’s headquarters in Miami, Florida, around five times a year. I feel like ATT is my natural habitat. There are some very high-level sparring partners -- Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos and Junior dos Santos, just to say a couple of names. I’ve trained with them for years. We know each other very well. Usually, people around the gym stop to watch us spar. We like technical sparring, but none of us runs away when it’s time to do some heavy-hitting action.”
In his most recent appearance, the 37-year-old Sakara scored a first-round technical knockout against Jamie Sloane at Bellator 203 on July 14 before a hometown crowd in Rome.
“I was really excited to fight in front of my city,” he said. “I will remember for the rest of my life the emotions that I felt when my people started chanting my walkout song. It was the right fight in the right location. Everything went into the right place. Italian people now understand that when Americans come in town, there will always be entertainment and a great show. I’ve heard Bellator is coming again to Rome next summer. I hope that the atmosphere will be even better next time.”
Bellator 211 marks the promotion’s sixth visit to Italy. The California-based organization has also staged fight cards in Rome, Florence and Turin.
“My involvement with Bellator is growing every day,” Sakara said. “Since Carlo Di Blasi’s and Bellator’s paths departed, I’m giving the promoters a hand. I feel there is a certain synergy with them. I feel honored for having been appointed Bellator’s ambassador. This is really important for me. I want to help spread MMA in Italy in a correct way. In order to do so, I’m going into Italian high schools to promote MMA and to campaign against bullying. Bellator is supporting me in this campaign, and I am very grateful to Mr. Scott Coker for this. I’ve also asked Bellator to donate the event’s gate to the city of Genoa in order to help the victims of the Morandi Bridge collapse. They said yes, and they couldn’t make me happier than this.”
One of the Rome native’s new tasks involves scouting the European MMA scene.
“I will also help Bellator in finding young talent,” Sakara said. “I will watch closely the European scene, not just the Italian one, and I will give Bellator the names. To be clear, the promotion will always have the final word about who will be called and who won’t. I would like to see Italian fighters against foreign opponents. We have few pro athletes in Italy, and I wouldn’t like to see them fight each other. I’m never going to be a promoter, though. I like the meritocracy, and now, I just want to help young talent make the jump on the next level.”
Sakara has compiled a 3-1 record inside the Bellator cage. His overall mark stands at 20-12 with two no-contests. That includes his 15-fight stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“I feel like I’m in the right place in this part of my career,” Sakara said. “I’m currently working on the most-watched Saturday night TV show in Italy for the second year in a row. As soon as I’m done with this fight, I’m going to turn [my attention to] a movie. When my time in MMA is up, this sport will become just my second job. I am far too competitive to corner someone else. I simply can’t just watch MMA without competing. I am currently working my way out, and it will be in another field. Remember, though, at this moment, I’m still considering fighting my top priority. I won’t stop fighting until I’m 42.”