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Bellator's Brandon Halsey vows to be 'reinvented' after disastrous 2015

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Bellator MMA

Brandon Halsey lost his belt last year after missing weight. Then, with a chance to reclaim it, he was knocked out by a liver kick.

It was a bad 2015 for the former Bellator middleweight champion. It also gave him a chance to look inward and make important changes.

"Am I really where I want to be at as a fighter?" Halsey said he asked himself. "Have I progressed in these three years to where I want to be? I didn't."

After losing to Rafael Carvalho by second-round knockout in October, Halsey did some soul searching. Yes, he had won the Bellator title in 2014 and looked like a top prospect in his first two-plus years as a pro. But still, Halsey thought he could have -- and should have -- been better.

Having the Bellator title stripped after he missed weight before a fight with Kendall Grove in May 2015 was the first wake-up call. Failing to regain the vacant belt against Carvalho put it over the top. Halsey needed something different.

So, over the course of the last seven months, Halsey changed his diet, altered his strength and conditioning program and began training at a new facility, American Gym in Costa Mesa, Calif.

When he steps in the cage again Friday against John Salter at Bellator 156 in Fresno, Calif., Halsey believes he'll be a new, improved version of the former champ.

"It wasn't about redemption or getting revenge," Halsey said. "It was about reinventing myself and making myself a better person and a better fighter. The leaps and bounds I've made in these past few months is greater than I've done in my whole three years of MMA. I can't be more excited to showcase what I've been doing and the new Brandon Halsey."

Halsey (9-1) believes he should be the No. 1 contender for his old belt if he beats Salter. He was horrified by the last title Bellator middleweight title fight. Carvalho beat Manhoef in one of the most lackluster bouts you'll ever see -- and most people scored it for Manhoef.

"The cherry on top is watching him fight like that, just a terrible representative of a champion," Halsey said. "Champions do not go out there to fight to not lose and run away from somebody. A champion goes out there to fight to win, to finish somebody and at the end of the day put all his heart and soul into it. It was hard to watch, because that guy took what was mine and it was just terrible."

Halsey, 29, fully expected to be facing Manhoef at the conclusion of that fight, but then the judges went the other way. And he was thankful. Now, if he gets a shot again, he has a chance to avenge that loss to Carvalho.

"The whole reason I'm at [185] is to run back to my title," said Halsey, who wrestled at Fresno State and California State Bakersfield in college. "This fight is just one step back to the title. After this, I see myself fighting for the title, getting my belt back and getting up on those banners."

First up, though, is Salter and showing off all the improvements he has made. No longer will Halsey by cutting from 225 pounds to 185. He's much lighter now, but his speed, explosiveness and strength is fully preserved. Halsey also believes his striking has developed better at American, where he trains alongside the likes of Tony Ferguson.

"It was more about the training I was getting," said Halsey, who previous fought out of Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center. "It wasn't really suited for me. I feel like in the three years I've been doing MMA I should be way past my skill level than I was. It was kind of frustrating being stuck in a box, basically. I felt confined to my fighting style. Now I feel like I've broken out of that box and the stars are the limit."