A week ago, Danny Sabatello wasn’t even on the Bellator roster. Now he plans to dominate it.
Sabatello is stepping in on less than one week’s notice as a replacement opponent for the debuting Brett Johns at Bellator 259 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Johns is a UFC veteran, one that actually left that promotion this past year on a two-fight winning streak, and he’ll be heavily favored when he steps into the cage with Sabatello this Friday.
Unsurprisingly, given his willingness to accept a bout with a high-profile opponent on such short notice, Sabatello expects to surprise everyone.
“I’m gonna beat the sh*t out of the guy,” Sabatello said on MMA Fighting’s What the Heck. “I’m very confident that there’s no way that this guy can beat me. The only way he does beat me is if he catches me, I just think my defense is too intact for him to catch me. I don’t see on the feet him posing me any problems and then obviously on the ground I’m a better grappler.
“I know he’s a judo guy from Wales. I’ve never heard of judo in Wales, maybe I need to get out more often, but I don’t think anything he’s gonna do is gonna pose an issue for me and I’m gonna steal his thunder. I also do expect to dominate him. I don’t want to just win over this guy. I know he’s good, but I’m better, so I’m just gonna go out there and dominate him.”
Sabatello’s confidence isn’t completely unfounded. The Chicagoan currently trains with the famed American Top Team camp in Florida, which just so happens to house a pair of fighters that have tussled with Johns: Pedro Munhoz and Tony Gravely. While Gravely lost by submission to Johns in February of last year, Munhoz outpointed Johns at UFC 227 in August 2018. Sabatello hasn’t had as much time as he’d like to pick their brains, but he said the UFC bantamweights have given him some valuable insights on Johns’ habits.
Overall, he doesn’t concern himself much with what Johns can do, and that’s the attitude he’s taking for the rest of Bellator’s deep bantamweight division. Not only does he expect to easily beat Johns, he’s already thinking about how he’d take out champion Sergio Pettis, top contender Patchy Mix, and anyone else who’s matched up with him.
“I see no issues with any of them, especially the champion Sergio Pettis,” Sabatello said. “I know that after this win I’m not gonna get a title shot, it’s just not how it goes. But eventually if I do fight for the belt and it’s Sergio, I’ll f*ck that guy up. If he’s the best, then you take all those guys below him and I’ll do damage to them too.
“Patchy Mix, I was actually supposed to fight Patchy Mix that last fight, I got the call from my manager to fill in for James Gallagher to fight Patchy Mix. I said yes. I started cutting the weight. I got a call a couple of hours later from my manager and he said somehow the fight fell through, so I don’t know if Patchy said no or if he was scared or the promotion said no, but that fight was almost gonna happen a couple of weeks ago. But yeah, I’m hoping to fight that guy somewhere along the line too. I honestly think all these guys are scared in the division, especially when you’ve got a guy hungry as me coming up and it’s just gonna be exciting from here on out.”
Whatever happens, this won’t be a one-off for Sabatello. He has signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator, giving him some stability after beginning his pro MMA career less than three years ago. He’s 10-1 as a pro, with a Titan FC bantamweight belt to his name and a lopsided decision victory on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Sabatello’s wrestling was so overwhelming on his Contender Series appearance that he earned a rare 30-24 score on one judge’s card, though it wasn’t enough to earn him a UFC contract. He admits that the missed opportunity gave him added motivation.
“I hope it’s a blessing in disguise,” Sabatello said of being passed over for a contract. “You know, hindsight’s 20/20, but I do think this was a better route for me in the end not getting that contract. But we’ll never know. Either way, I do feel disrespected still to this day, not getting that contract. A 30-24 scorecard, probably the most dominant performance ever on that show. I don’t even know if anyone’s ever had a 30-24 scorecard, so I was shocked by that.
“But I guess that puts a little bit more of a chip on my shoulder, then I landed in Bellator’s lap. I do think it would be for the better and we’ll see.”
Making bold proclamations about knocking off Bellator champions before he’s even debuted for the promotion might rub some the wrong way, but Sabatello is used to fans not always being on his side. After using his wrestling to notch a successful Titan FC title defense in his most recent fight this past February, Sabatello heard some jeers from the crowd.
He didn’t hesitate to use his post-fight mic time to let them know what he thought of the reaction, and he certainly won’t shy away from that kind of response in the future.
“Just for the haters that don’t like me, I’m not gonna be one of those guys that just listens to them and tucks my tail between my legs,” Sabatello said. “I’m gonna dish it right back at them. If you don’t like me, I don’t give a f*ck. I don’t like you. But of course, the people that like me, I like them back, I love fans, everybody that’s cheering for me, that’s great. But I do want people to understand that this is mixed martial arts, and you might have an idea of where a fight should go or how it should take place, but the bottom line is it takes place wherever I decide it’s gonna take place. If I want to stand up on the feet then I will, if I want to take it to the ground, I will.
“One thing about dominating someone that people don’t understand is when you dominate somebody, it’s not going to be that exciting because it’s very one-sided. When a fight is very exciting, you see all these exchanges and scrambles and all that. So if you’re booing me for how dominant I am, it’s almost like you’re clapping your hands to me, because I’m so much better than this guy. This is boring because all he’s doing is beating the sh*t out of this guy. So I take it as a compliment really, but I do recognize the disrespect in the crowd booing me, so it’s just f*ck you, I got the win, you understand that I’m dominating this guy, and then time goes on.”