Put yourself in Adam Borics’s shoes.
You’ve secured a spot in the second round of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, advancing in the tournament with a TKO of two-time champion Pat Curran. You’re flown into California for the special selection show to determine who will face who in the quarterfinals. You wait.
With the order determined through random selection, the remaining eight fighters in the tournament are allowed to pick either the month they want to compete in next, or their next opponent. With nagging injuries, you pick January to have time to rest and recover. When all the other selections have been made, you’re the only one without an opponent, and the only name left without a dance partner is the champ himself, Patricio Freire.
You’re Borics, 26 years old, and lined up to take on arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history.
Then the twist. It’s announced that as the current titleholder at 145 pounds, “Pitbull” has earned the “Champion’s Choice,” and he can override any of the previous picks. He chooses to fight Pedro Carvalho in March, which shifts former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell into a matchup with Borics.
The young Hungarian’s championship destiny has to wait.
Before the last-second switch, Borics was more than prepared to challenge Freire, and he told MMA Fighting he believes Freire made a calculated decision to avoid both himself and fellow undefeated featherweight A.J. McKee.
“Of course, I was like, ‘Yes, it’s what I really want,’” Borics said of a title shot against Freire. “‘This is the best. I can fight in January and for the title,’ but I already know that nobody wants to be on me and A.J.’s side, because we are on the same side. I already knew he didn’t want to pick me yet. It was too good to be true, fighting for the title right now.”
“But the time is coming, I’ll fight for the title soon. So I don’t care, I’m just doing my job, I’m getting better every day.”
According to Freire, his decision to fight Carvalho was also due to wanting time off to recover from injuries after going five rounds in a successful title defense against Juan Archuleta at Bellator 228. But Borics isn’t convinced. Given the stakes of the grand prix – the winner will claim a $1,000,000 prize and the Bellator featherweight title, which is being defended throughout the tournament – Borics thinks Freire’s call was strictly business.
Borics has to get past Caldwell now, and if he does, he’s looking forward to seeing who’s 0 goes in a matchup with McKee, the first fighter to advance to the semifinals.
“It’s big money, so everybody wants this money,” Borics said. “Everybody wants the easiest way. But I’m not like that. When I had the opportunity to choose the date, I was like, December is too early, because my shin and my foot hurt, so I want to fight in January. That means my biggest opponent is A.J. McKee, and I know if I chose January, I would fight against him in the next round, but I didn’t care.
“I know I can beat everybody, so I’m ready for everybody.”
By no means is Borics looking past Caldwell, the man he faces this Saturday in the co-main event of Bellator 238. “The Wolf” may have seen his championship run at 135 pounds end last year, but he rebounded with a win over Henry Corrales to book his ticket to the Grand Prix’s elite eight.
Caldwell has now competed in five featherweight bouts for Bellator and has yet to be defeated in that weight class.
“Great fighter,” Borics said of Caldwell. “He’s a former champion, so he has a lot of experience, and he’s a really good wrestler. But I am a better MMA fighter than him. I want it more. I’m hungrier than him and my fighting spirit is different.
“I can fight forever. I can fight five rounds and he doesn’t have a gas tank like me.”
Borics has yet to show that go the distance as none of his five Bellator opponents have made it to the final bell including Curran and fellow prospect Aaron Pico. A 14-0 pro record has vaulted “The Kid” up the featherweight ladder, and while he feels like a championship fight would have been a bridge too far just 12 months ago, he expects to face Freire soon – whether the champion is ready or not.
“I improved a lot in the last two years,” Borics said. “If somebody told me one year ago that you have to fight for the title, I’d be like, ‘I need more time.’ But if somebody told me you can fight for the title now, I’d say, ‘Let’s go, let’s do it.’ Everything is in the right time now.”
For more from Borics, check out his fight week interview with MMA Fighting: