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Leandro Higo wants to make the best of his second ‘unexpected’ title shot at Bellator

Leandro Higo says Bellator champ Darrion Caldwell wasn't tested yet in MMA.
Bellator

Don’t expect the same old Leandro Higo at Bellator 195, even though he wasn’t really expecting another shot at the bantamweight title.

The Brazilian fighter, who turned 29 in January, made his Bellator debut last April in a title fight with then-champion Eduardo Dantas, missing weight and losing via split decision. “Pitbull” came back to the winning column in October, defeating Joe Taimanglo, and is once again fighting for the 135-pound gold.

Higo will face Darrion Caldwell in the main event of Friday’s Bellator 195 in Thackerville, Okla., and admits that he didn’t foresee a title fight that soon.

”It was unexpected. I was expecting to fight once or twice more, but things happened in a way that helped me,” Higo told MMA Fighting. “I beat Joe Taimanglo, the only guy that beat Darrion Caldwell. I thought I was going to fight Joe Warren, but Bellator gave me a title shot, and I think it makes sense.”

It didn’t go his way back at Bellator 177, and Higo knows what went wrong that night in Hungary.

”I had so much pressure over my shoulders for that fight against ‘Dudu,’” Higo said. “I took the fight on short notice and I had just fought Steven Peterson (at LFA 1). I was injured, taking medicine, and I wasn’t expecting to fight that soon, especially in a title bout. That didn’t help me at all.

”But it’s different now. Sometimes things happen to make you evolve as a person and as an athlete, and that definitely make me stronger. It was a close fight with the champion, so I showed what I can do.”

A former RFA and LFA bantamweight champion, Higo sees the Bellator belt as the biggest achievement of his career.

”The other titles were the foundation for this one,” he said. “It will definitely be my biggest achievement in MMA. I’m ready to fight and bring this belt home. This is the best I’ve ever been, and I’m really confident for this fight.”

Higo, 18-3 with 15 finishes, respects Caldwell’s credentials in combat sports. The Bellator titleholder is 10-1 in MMA, having already avenged the only blemish in his record, but Higo thinks he’s untested in MMA.

”He’s the Bellator champion, and was a champion in wrestling, but I don’t think he was tested outside of his comfort zone yet,” Higo said. “Every one he faces is afraid to go to the ground with him, but I worked hard for it. A lot of fighters fight him focused on what he’s going to do. I focused on what I’m going to do. I don’t give a f*ck whatever he tries to do. I will dictate the rhythm.

”He hasn’t faced someone me yet,” he continued. “I know how I can beat him. If he tries to take me down with the same techniques he used against Taimanglo, that ankle pick, I’ll catch his neck. I can catch anyone in this division.

”I’ve fought Darrion Caldwell every day in my mind. I fight that guy every day. I’ve fought him many times, and I always put myself in uncomfortable situations in the fight. When you go to war, you can’t expect to win fast and easy. If he tries to do that boring game he always does, he will get frustrated.”