The bantamweight champion returns to the cage on March 7, but not against the man he wanted.
With Rafael Silva out of the fight with an injury, 135-pound champion Eduardo Dantas will put his belt on the line against tournament runner-up Anthony Leone at Bellator 111. However, if he had the right to pick, he would match himself against season 9 tournament winner Joe Warren.
"I can’t choose opponents," Dantas told MMAFighting.com. "I will fight anyone, but I would rather fight Joe Warren because we won a tournament. But I can’t choose."
Dantas and Warren went back-and-forth on Twitter in 2013. Warren, a former Bellator featherweight champion, said he would "break Dantas’ f------ teeth out and get the belt", but Dantas won’t talk trash now.
"Warren is a tough fighter and always comes forward," he said. "It’s a good match-up."
Dantas wants this fight, but it won’t happen if the Nova Uniao product can’t get past Leone on March 7.
"They picked Leone, and I think he also deserves to fight me because we went to the finale," he said. "Leone is a great athlete, has a good right hand and good takedowns. He has fought in great promotions throughout his career, but I’m ready for him."
Leone, a 13-6 MMA veteran, suffered his first loss when competing against Nova Uniao’s Renan Barao in 2010 at WEC. A UFC champion now, Barao gave his teammate some tips.
"We talked about that fight," Dantas said. "He said some things about Anthony Leone. He said he’s tough, but that’s he’s not that big deal. We train so hard at Nova Uniao that we’re ready for anyone. I’m hungry to get there and end this fight before the fifth round."
"Dudu" hasn’t fought in 13 months due to injuries, but it helped him get hungrier to compete.
"It just gets me more motivated," he said. "I’m sure I won’t feel the ring rust or any pressure at all. I didn’t fight for a year, but I’m training all the time. I traveled around the world to get new sparring and new trainings, and it just gave me more motivation to fight.
"I had the best camp of my career. I’m in the best shape of my life, ready to explode for five rounds if I need to, but I’m sure it won’t last five rounds. You’ll see my evolution on March 7. I will finish this fight."
Bellator 111 takes place at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and features four heavyweight tournament quarterfinals: Lavar Johnson vs. Ryan Martinez, Peter Graham vs. Mighty Mo, Alexander Volkov vs. Mark Holata and Blagoi Ivanov vs. Rich Hale.