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Love him or hate him, Danny Sabatello really, truly doesn’t ‘give a f***’ what you think about him

Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

The always outspoken and usually foul-mouthed Bellator bantamweight Danny Sabatello is actually considered a nice guy.

Well, at least to those closest to him.

The former Purdue wrestler, who earned a reputation for expletive-laced trash talk and a confrontational demeanor, promises he’s as authentic as anyone you’ll ever meet in the sport. He’s quick to point out there are definitely people who would speak his praises — just not anyone he’s getting ready to fight.

“I can’t stress it enough that I don’t care what people think other than the people surrounding me,” Sabatello told MMA Fighting. “Other than my family, my friends, my teammates and my coaches, I don’t really care.

“Obviously, I’m great to the people I care about, my family, my friends. If you saw me interact with my coaches and my teammates, you’d think I was the nicest guy ever. Of course, I’m going to be good to the people that I care about. It’s the people that I get locked inside of a f****** cage and those idiot f****** fans that talk s***, of course, I don’t care about them.”

While Sabatello’s mouth has earned him a lot of attention outside the cage, he’s also gone undefeated in Bellator with a seven-fight winning streak that included a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Most would classify Sabatello’s outbursts as nothing more than trash talk aimed at selling fights. But he claims that’s absolutely the last thing he’s doing whenever there’s a microphone in front of him.

“This is just exactly who I am,” he said. “If you saw me on the street away from the cameras, away from interviews or outside of fighting, you’d realize that’s really my persona, and that’s who I am. So the good thing is when the cameras turn on, I don’t have to be anything different than who I am. I think that really resonates with the fans. I feel like they understand that this isn’t some schtick, and it isn’t just a fake Danny Sabatello. This is really who I am.

“But the good thing is, I like to keep it interesting. I like to keep it fun. At the end of the day, this s*** is fun to me. I love fighting, but not just the fighting, I love talking s***, so everything that’s bunched up in this fighting business is fun to me.”

It’s safe to say the majority of MMA athletes look at the sport as a competition. Personal feelings get injected from time to time, but respect and admiration tends to outweigh legitimate bad blood between opponents. Even some of the most heated rivalries have been settled with handshakes and hugs afterward.

None of that interests Sabatello. He said he has nothing but genuine disdain for any fighter who stands across the cage from him. He’s not trying to be friends with any of his opponents before, during or after they clash. Maybe that attitude will backfire one day, but he said his strategy has been working out pretty well so far.

“I really do hate my f****** opponents,” Sabatello said. “Henry Cejudo talks this s*** and puts on a schtick. Same with Colby Covington.. With me, it’s completely different. I go out there and I actually f****** hate these guys. Before the fight, after the fight, I’m not friends with any of these motherf******.

“I’m not going to do that lame-ass glove touch. I’m not going to come up to them afterward and say, ‘Hey I was just selling the fight.’ I’m not doing any of that. I’m not here to sell a fight. I don’t say anything I don’t believe. I’m just calling it how it is.”

In the weeks leading up to his fight against Raufeon Stots in the Bellator 289 main event, Sabatello has been touted as possibly the “best villain in MMA.” He completely understands there’s going to be a large segment of fans and fighters who dislike his approach and the way he verbally assaults other athletes.

“I think people recognize me as a villain because I don’t give a f***,” Sabatello said. “With these other fighters, they’re used to other people that really care about the fans and the clicks and the likes and they comment on everybody’s stuff, and they’re fun and they’re friends with all the other fighters. When you come across me, you see that I don’t care for any of the other fighters outside of my gym at American Top Team.

“You see I don’t care about the love or the hate. When somebody praises me or puts me down, I don’t really care. It’s more of such a villain attitude toward me because I’m so different than all these other fighters. They’re just not used to it. You can see me as a villain. You can see me as a hero. I don’t really care at the end of the day. I’m just being me.”

If there’s one aspect of the sport that Sabatello figured out on the day he decided to become a fighter, it’s that MMA can be extremely fickle. That prisoner-of-the-moment mentality will transform one athlete into the greatest fighter of all time after a win and one loss later leave that same person a bum who never mattered.

Sabatello recognizes that MMA is filled with peaks and valleys, so he prefers to just ignore what anybody says about him.

“You look at Conor McGregor, people have loved him and people have hated him,” Sabatello said. “You look at Jorge Masvidal. People have loved him and people have hated him. The special thing that I think people should understand is you should just always be yourself. You’ll never be able to predict if people will love you or hate you, and probably you will get both.

“Along my career, people will start to love me and then shortly after that, they might start to hate me. It’s too chaotic. The fans are too crazy to even get caught up in that or even care about that but again I’m just going to be me. You can love me or hate me but I see it going both ways.”

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