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Ahead of Bellator debut, Raymond Daniels reflects on first MMA fight: ‘I didn’t prepare myself at all’

Bellator Kickboxing

One of the greatest kickboxers ever, Raymond Daniels, will make his second MMA outing this weekend at Bellator Birmingham and he feels he is far more prepared compared to his ill-fated debut in which he succumbed to a first-round submission to Jeremiah Metcalf at a Strikeforce event in June 2008.

As for what prompted his return to the sport, Daniels claims that after defending his Bellator Kickboxing title, he felt it was time to test himself in the discipline again.

“It came about through my evolution as a fighter,” Daniels told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.

“I don’t like to look forward to the future until I accomplish what my goal is…now that I’ve accomplished my goal of being Bellator Kickboxing champion and defended my title, the opportunity has presented itself to be able to go and challenge myself and correct a past error that went wrong with my last MMA [fight] when I first fougth in Strikeforce a decade ago.”

Daniels has no problem admitting that he did not prepare adequately for his first test in MMA and candidly addressed how his ego played a big part in that as an undefeated kickboxing proponent.

“I was just 27 [when I made my MMA debut], that’s old but I was a lot younger in my life. It was a totally different experience and I had a totally different mindset. When you’re a little bit older you can reflect on life and understand what you did and didn’t do in order to prepare yourself correctly. When I did that all those years ago, honestly, I didn’t prepare myself at all,” he said.

“I was a young fighter, I was an undefeated kickboxer and I was like, ‘I’m knocking out every person that I fight within seconds, I’ll go into MMA and knock this person out too’—that was my mindset as a young man. I think sometimes when you’re undefeated, if you don’t have anyone to steer you or guide you in the right direction it can be what happened to me.”

In hindsight, Daniels now sees the debut defeat as a learning experience.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time. Now, I’ve actually prepared myself for the grappling. I’ve feel like I’ve improved so much from my debut as a stand up fighter too. I’m really looking forward to get out there, I’ve been looking forward to it for some quite some time.”

Wilker Barros, a decorated kickboxer in his own right, has stepped up the mark on short notice to face Daniels in Birmingham after an injury ruled his initial opponent, Jon Durrant, out of the contest. Although it’s unlikely that Barros will test him on the ground to degree that other Bellator welterweights could, Daniels feels far more prepared for grappling exchanges this time around.

“To be honest, I don’t feel like anyone can feel comfortable with grappling,” he explained. “From what I’ve learned about grappling, there is no comfort zone. I’ve trained with Kit Dale, I’ve trained with Ryan Hall and I’ve trained with Sean Strickland. The crazy thing about is, like with kickboxing, everybody has a certain skill set that they can come at you with and I understand those skillsets front, back and inside out. With the whole grappling aspect of the sport, everyone translates it in a different way. When you look at jiu-jitsu, even on YouTube or Instagram, everyone is coming up with new techniques; brand new guards, brand new defenses, brand new ways to submit you. It’s such a crazy game and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a comfort level that I’ll have there.

“I’m comfortable being uncomfortable, I guess that’s how I kind of look at it. I’ve been working more on anti-jiu-jitsu because there are just so many ways to skin a cat when it comes to jiu-jitsu. It’s ridiculous how many different tools these guys have; I think it’s amazing. Now I feel like I’m able to enjoy the beauty of that and of wrestling as well.”

Daniels also highlighted how he hopes to dazzle the MMA masses with his spectacular striking style, as he has done for decades.

“I’m a high risk, high reward kind of guys when I’m in a fight. Not a lot of people are willing to go out and risk the techniques that I’m willing to throw out when I fight. I think the reason that is, is because they don’t take the time to practice and master those techniques and I’ve done it for over three decades now. A lot of the stuff I do is second nature to me now, it’s kind of like throwing a jab; it’s very basic,” he said.

“I’m really excited because I know the MMA world hasn’t necessarily really seen my style of fighting before with the flash and showmanship. I know there are fighters out there who fight similar to my style…but I feel my style is different to all the things that they do.”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Raymond Daniels interview begins at 1:42:00.

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