Brandon Girtz played spoiler over the summer, but it hasn't worked out for him quite yet.
In August, Girtz pulled off a big upset of Melvin Guillard via split decision in the main event of Bellator 141. Guillard, a high-profile, exciting UFC veteran, would have likely moved on to a big fight had he beaten Girtz. So that's exactly what Girtz expected when he came away the winner.
"They brought Melvin in to do something," Girtz told MMA Fighting. "If Melvin would have beat me, you know he would have been fighting somebody else good and you know he would have been fighting for the title probably pretty quick. I definitely wanted a top-five guy in the division."
He didn't get it in his estimation. The Minnesota native will meet Derek Campos in a rematch at Bellator 146 on Friday night at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. That's not to say Campos isn't good -- he is. So good, in fact, that he beat Girtz by unanimous decision two years ago.
Girtz, though, was understandably looking for a big name next. He spoiled Guillard's debut and thought he'd be put on a similar track as Guillard would have been. Names like Michael Chandler, Josh Thomson and Patricky Freire were on his mind. Instead, Girtz said he was told he had to fight Campos again or he wouldn't have a spot on a card until next year.
Girtz (13-4) is over it now. He's focused on Campos and is looking forward to avenging that past loss. He feels like a completely new fighter since that defeat. Last year, on the advice of his friend Pat Barry, Girtz left Minnesota for Grudge Training Center in Colorado. The lightweight has won two in a row since working with highly respected coach Trevor Wittman and training partners like Barry, Rose Namajunas and Justin Gaethje.
"It's been great, man," Girtz said. "Pat is my man. It's good training with him. Him, Rose and Justin Gaethje -- those are my people right there. It's just a solid group. It's easy to feed off of it."
Physically gifted all his life, Girtz said being at Grudge has improved his mental game. Wittman as a cerebral coach and Girtz credits Gaethje with teaching him by example the proper mindset to fight.
Girtz, 30, considered retirement after a knockout loss to Derek Anderson in March 2014. He was doing well in the fight until he got caught. Rather than hanging up the gloves, though, he finally too Barry's guidance and moved to Colorado.
"That was a pivotal point in my life where I thought that I didn't even want to fight anymore," Girtz said. "In the fight game, the higher and higher you go, you can't just go through the motions and that's exactly what I was doing. I was just going through the motions every day and I was just there, but I didn't really want to be there."
The opposite is true now. Girtz knocked out Benny Madrid in just 57 seconds in September 2014 and then, after recovering from ACL surgery, outworked Guillard three months ago.
With a great coach and team behind him, things are really looking up for the former Division II All-American wrestler. Girtz believes that an impressive win over Campos will leave Bellator no choice to give him one of those names -- Chandler or Thomson or "Pitbull" -- next.
"I would love one of those fights," Girtz said. "I feel like after I clear off this loss I had two years ago, there should be no reason why they don't give me one of those guys.
"They can't hate me that much. They can't. ... They brought in some good names. After I put Campos away, they better be giving me one of those good names."