Former UFC fighter and current Bellator combatant Joey Beltran returns to the cage Friday, May 20, at Bellator 155.
"The Mexicutioner," who's dropped from heavyweight to light heavyweight and then to middleweight since his UFC release, moves back to heavyweight to face Chase Gormley at the event. MMA Fighting caught up with the man who once took the current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic the distance to talk about his upcoming fight against Gormley, his lengthy career, and his job as a furniture salesman.
Below is a transcript of the conversation.
Danny Segura: Your last fight wasn't in Bellator. It was at C3 Fights, where you defeated Lamont Stafford. How did that work out with your Bellator contract?
Joey Beltran: Bellator was super cool about letting me do that, I really just, you know, mentally for me, I just wanted to end the year on a positive note. I felt like I was doing so good in that Kendall Grove fight up until the moment I made that mistake. But, you know, at that upper level, one mistake is all it takes. I know that, and shit happens, but like I said, it was for just pure selfish reasons.
I just wanted to end the year on a good note and get some momentum going for 2016. Bellator was cool enough to let me do it, and I have a past relationship with the promoter, very professional, really awesome guys, really cool. Dr. Ron Tripp runs the C3 fights out there, and so it was a win-win situation for everybody. Bellator was cool with it, you know, Dr. Tripp got to use me for promotion, and it was all good. You know, the guy that I fought, he was coming off seven straight knockout wins, and I'm sure he thought he was on the cusp of breaking through to that next level, and he saw me as that stepping [stone] if you will but I'm not the one just yet, not just yet.
DS: Why did you feel the need to go out of your way to close 2015 with a win?
JB: Like I said, it was just pure, like I just really fu*king felt like I wanted that one back like more, you know, no disrespect to Kendall, he was a friend before and a friend after. It's just like one mistake, man, one mistake, and I was doing so well that yeah, I just wanted to redo and hit the reset button. But unfortunately, in life you can't do that, but the best next thing is to go out there, get back on the horse, and get the win and get the ball going in the right direction.
DS: Why the move from middleweight back to heavyweight?
JB: You know, I just feel like I have maybe a few fights left, I don't know exactly how many. I'm just, right now, I'm already taking the necessary steps in the right direction for life after fighting. I have a full-time job, and I don't really have the time to cut weight. It's not that I can't physically do it, it's just time consuming from everything, from the meal prep, to the diligence, to fu*king eating every three hours on the dot, and then, you know, the extra cardio that takes to get to 185. I don't have the time to do it.
Whereas fighting at heavyweight, I know how to fight, it's not like I'm going to re-reinvent the wheel in one training camp, you know, sharpen the tools, go out there with excellent cardio shape like I always do, and just walk in at my normal walking weight. I'll probably walk into the cage somewhere around 220 to 225, and get in a fistfight. For me it's not a big deal. I've been doing it my whole life. I've been doing it professionally for almost 10 years, so [it's] not a big deal to me.
DS: You mentioned you probably don't have that many fights left. How long are you going to fight for?
JB: I don't know. I mean, if it was up to my wife, I would have been over a long time ago, if it's up to my wife and my family, you know? They don't like me doing it. I still have the passion and the fire, and I still genuinely enjoy it and love it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't. Also too, like I said, I was doing so good, it's not like I'm getting blown out.
In a shitty way, like if I were to go out there and just have a horrible performance, and get my ass whopped, then maybe I'll be like, ‘alright, it's time to quit,' but I'm just like, ‘Ah, I'm competitive in all these fights.' All these fights I'm losing, I'm like one mistake here, one mistake there. I know I just have confidence in myself and my coaching that if I make a few adjustments here and there, all those close losses are wins. And you know, I'm competitive. I'm obviously doing something right; Bellator keeps paying me thousands of dollars, flying me around the country to fight and putting me on TV, so I'm obviously doing something right. So I guess, as long as I can do it competitively and represent my family, represent my coaches in a respectful manner and go out there and compete and, you know, make money, I'm going to keep doing it.
DS: Are you still working as a furniture salesman?
JB: Oh yeah, I'm selling.
DS: How is that going?
JB: It's going good, man, I'm doing really well. It's funny because me and a couple of my coaches were joking around, like, I don't know what people think, but selling furniture is a really good gig, if you're good at it. I like it 'cause there is no cap, and it's crazy, like, I can already see just from coming from performing at the highest level in something completely different, but still you have the same mind set, you have to have the same work ethic, you know.
Be the first person at the gym, be the last person to leave. Same thing, be the first person at the store, be the last person to leave. Don't take shortcuts. Don't take fu*king breaks. Don't take extra long lunches, like, be on the floor, be prepping, be selling, and make sure you're giving the highest level of customer service. It's like so many parallels with sports and sales, it's like...I'll make sure it's six figures.
I'm giving myself two years. Same way I gave myself three years to make it into the UFC when I started fighting, like, I gave myself two years to start making six figures. And there are people in front of me that are my same age, everything and I've seen [them] do it, and it's not like it's any crazy Ponzi scheme, or pyramid scheme, or mid-level marketing, or anything funky like that. It's just, you show up, you fu*king sell, you fu*king do a good job, and you have people skills, and you genuinely want to help. I'm good at it, so I was like, 'fu*k, if I can make this amount of money and I don't have to train all the time, don't have to get in any fu*king fist fights in cages with giant men, it might not be that bad of a deal.'
DS: Six figures? Where do I sign up?
JB: I know, right? I'm telling you, man. The funny thing is, you know, and I always joke with my managers, I'm fu*king walking in here zombie status. My normal day is I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, go hit the fu*king gym, take a shower, and be at work by 9. I'll sometimes do 12-hour work shifts and come out at 9 and do cardio at night. And on my days off, I do three sessions a day—that's when I meet up with my coaches, and it's working out. I just got done sparring with Travis Browne, who's [an] upper-echelon heavyweight in the world, and you know, what happens in the gym stays in the gym, obviously. But I'm fu*king damn sure I wasn't out there looking like a furniture salesman, I'll tell you that, man. I'm looking like a high-level fighter, so it's good. I'm able to pull it off.
DS: Not every day your co-worker is "The Mexicutioner." What do your co-workers think?
JB: They think it's cool. The guy who got me the job, I used to be his kid's coach for two years. I was a grappling coach. And so he was the one who talked to me about it like, ‘Hey, come try this out, you're really good at talking to people, and you have a good personality.' I'm like, ‘Yeah, alright.' Then I saw how much money he was making. That was the biggest thing. He's just like a normal dude, just like me. He has kids and he's fu*king making bank. So I was, ‘Alright, if he can do it, I can do it. Well, let's go.' I still make little mistakes. I make the most mistakes on the fu*king computer. On the damn stupid computer system that we have, and like I'll get stuck, and the thing is that you have to strike when the iron is hot. When someone is in the emotional state of buying, you got to keep them there. Sometimes I'll be getting fumbled on the computer, and then they'll be like, ‘Um, we're going to think about it.' But anyways, long story short, my co-workers think it's cool, and I've had a couple tell me, ‘It's really cool that you never talk about or try to use your fighting more as something to talk about with the people. Like, it's very humble of you that you don't really brag or talk about fighting.' I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's just my other job, whatever. It's not a big deal to me.'
DS: Have any customers recognized you?
JB: Yeah, of course, a few. A couple of the delivery drivers that work for the furniture store got more stoked about it than anybody else. Like, they actually got off the truck and took pictures with me in my shirt and tie. The first time I got recognized by a costumer, it was already at the end, and I was done writing them up, and I was going over the invoice with them, closing procedure. And then, the guy goes, ‘Wait a minute. Are you The Mexemuter?' And I was like, ‘Uh, The Mexicutioner, but yeah, yeah that's me.' He was like, ‘No fu*king way. This whole time we were working why didn't you say something?' And I was like, ‘What am I going to say? You're going to buy this couch or I'm going to whoop your ass?'
DS: Well, did he buy the couch?
JB: Oh, yeah. He bought. He bought.
DS: Nice. So back to fighting, what's the goal now?
JB: I have a couple of goals in mind. The biggest one, obviously: beat Chase Gormley. Finish him. Second goal after that is get to 20 wins. And my third goal is to fight for the title one more time. Like, if I can somehow weasel my way into that, that'd be great. I want to do that at heavyweight. There are still some exciting fights at heavyweight in Bellator. I see my good old friend Matt Mitrione. We had an awesome Fight of the Night years and years ago and I came out on the losing end. I already brought it up to the Bellator executives. I was like, 'If we can go back to San Diego, Matt owes me one, because I went to Indiana and fought his ass in his hometown.' So if we can get the rematch in San Diego, that'd be awesome.