Bellator 170 will be a special night for Guilherme Vasconcelos.
The Brazilian welterweight returns to the Bellator cage seven months after first-round submission victory in his promotional debut, and several reasons led him to decide to wait this long to fight again.
Vasconcelos, who takes on John Mercurio on Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., wants to impress one more time in his second Bellator appearance, and it had to be on this card.
“It was my decision to take this time off,” Vasconcelos told MMA Fighting. “I wanted to evolve as an athlete and to get my life in order here in the United States, because I had just moved five or six months before my last fight and I didn’t want to rush anything."
That was not the only reason why he hasn’t fought earlier, though. “Bomba”, who competed in the third season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil representing Team Chael Sonnen, wanted to be part of the card that featured the debut of his friend against Tito Ortiz.
“I asked to fight on this card, to be on the same night of Chael’s fight,” Vasconcelos said. “Back to your first question, that was one of the reasons why I haven't fought in November or December, because it would be too close to this card.
“I'm the type of athlete that enters a fight ready for everything. When I step inside the cage, I’m ready to get beat up. That’s my mindset. I don’t make plans for after the fights because I give my 100 percent all the time.”
Vasconcelos expects a great night at Bellator 170, for both Sonnen and himself.
“Chael is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever trained with in my life,” “Bomba" said. “He doesn't let you breathe. His game is unbelievable. His hands are better than Tito’s. His wrestling is better than Tito’s. Chael will win, for sure.
“I expect my fight to be a tough one, too,” he continued. “I foresee myself winning in many different ways. I can’t say ‘I'm going to do this, I’m going to do that’. The opportunity he gives me, 10 seconds into the fight or after 14 minutes, I’ll go for the finish. I see my hands raised in the end after all the hard work I’ve done in the gym.”
Vasconcelos praises Mercurio’s stand up technique and aggressiveness, and that’s why he trained with a high-level striker for Bellator 170.
“I trained with Joe Schilling, he will be in my corner,” Vasconcelos said. “He's one of the best kickboxers in the world, and my hands will be way better now. That’s one of the things I wanted to evolve as an athlete. I’m happy with the work we’ve done."
"Bomba" enter his second Bellator bout with a 8-3 record, but he believes that the level of competition he's faced since his MMA debut has got him prepared for any situation.
In his first MMA bout, back in 2012, Vasconcelos fought 23-fight veteran Wendell Oliveira, who would end up in the UFC years later, and won via second-round submission. In his next fight, “Bomba" lost a decision to PRIDE veteran Daniel Acacio.
The first knockout win of his career in the regional circuit got him a fight with Elizeu Zaleski, another future UFC fighter, and a submission win led him to the UFC reality show in Brazil.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Vasconcelos said of his start in the sport. “I look back and I’m proud of having faced these tough guys. I learned a lot. That’s important for my life and career.”
Vasconcelos had a shot in the Octagon after the reality show. Fighting as a middleweight, the Minas Gerais native lost a decision to Luke Zachrich, and was released by the UFC.
“I don’t see those losses as losses, but as a chance to learn,” he said. “Fighting in the biggest promotions, fighting great fighters since my start in the sport, that experience taught me how things work."
“Being on TUF: Brazil, living with experienced fighters, that helped me a lot,” he continued. “It was hard to stay focused on everything there. After I lost, I had to stay there and continue training, and being through all that made me grow as a person and as an athlete. You have to push yourself harder. It was an unique opportunity.
“To be honest, before joining TUF, I never thought I could handle a situation like that, but I did and it was wonderful. It changed my life. I became friends with Chael. He’s a great friend, and I can’t thank the TUF enough for that."