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Raufeon Stots delighted with Danny Sabatello feud: ‘The foreplay makes the fight better for me’

Danny Sabatello and Raufeon Stots
Bellator MMA

Raufeon Stots wouldn’t change a thing about his rivalry with Danny Sabatello.

The bantamweight stars meet on Friday in the main event of Bellator 289 in Uncasville, Conn., with Stots putting an interim title on the line against an opponent that he has seen plenty of over the past few months.

The two have done everything in their power to hype up their grudge match. And even though they’ve been joined at the hip from a promotional standpoint, Stots has thoroughly enjoyed the process, especially since it will only enliven what he expects to be another successful night at the office.

“I enjoy the trash talk,” Stots told MMA Fighting. “Interviews, being in front of him, stuff like that, I don’t mind it, because I know once the fight gets here, I get to let everything out. I get to let loose. I get to have my way.

“So all this stuff is just like foreplay. It’s kind of a bunch of foreplay. It’s fun. The fight is going to be the funnest, but the foreplay makes the fight better for me.”

Stots hasn’t always been kind when discussing Sabatello’s fighting ability — on The MMA Hour, Stots said that skill-wise ,he’d place Sabatello ‘among the top 5 worst opponents that I’ve faced’ — but he’s grateful that “The Italian Gangster” has been more than willing to verbally engage him. In his six-fight run with Bellator, Stots is undefeated, but none of his previous opponents brought the same kind of spark to hyping up a fight.

If Stots is to make it to another level of notoriety, he feels opponents like Sabatello are a necessary evil.

“I do think I needed Sabatello,” Stots said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m happy to fight him. I need a villain, I need somebody who poses a threat, who’s going to challenge me. I do need somebody like that, especially if I’m thinking about my MMA legacy. I think I need something like that because I haven’t had anybody really try to—Like, the last person was Magomed [Magomedov]. Magomed kind of came at me like he was going to beat me up, like he was a big brother to me or something, and then I shut that down fast.

“So this is something for fans and people to get behind. It’s just making me a bigger star, I’m sure there’s people that like him also. I do think it’s good.”

Friday’s headliner also serves as one half of the semifinals of the Bellator bantamweight world grand prix, with Magomed Magomedov fighting Patchy Mix on the other side of the bracket in the co-main event. Should Stots dispatch Sabatello as he expects to do, he welcomes either a chance to beat Magomedov again or get a fresh challenge in Mix.

Stots is hopeful that a fight with Mix would produce more fireworks in the lead-up to the finals.

“I think I have more to gain with a fresh matchup, but I definitely think a fight with Magomed would be different this time,” Stots said. “I think he would come more prepared knowing the skill level I’m at, so I definitely think a fight with him would be more difficult than the first time.

“But yeah, if I had to choose, I would choose a fresh matchup. Also, I got some s*** to say about Patchy Mix and Magomed there’s the language barrier, so it can’t be as fun.”

If there’s one downside to Stots closing out Bellator’s last domestic event of 2022, it’s that he’s missing out on the New Year’s fun set to take place on Dec. 31 when some of Bellator’s best are set to face RIZIN’s best at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The ebullient Stots would seem a perfect fit for the well-established pageantry of Japanese MMA, and if everything goes according to plan, he aims to be booked on a crossover card next year.

“I would love that,” he said. “This million dollar tournament and the Bellator cross promotion, also the way that Bellator was treating their fighters that I saw, those are the three reasons that I chose to sign with Bellator. That would be amazing to me. I feel like that’s a ballsy move on both promotions’ side and it would be super cool to fight outside of the U.S. and test yourself against somebody who’s the best at another organization. I think that would be amazing.”

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