“The Italian Gangster” lived up to his trash talk on Friday night with a dominating decision over Leandro Higo to advance into the semifinals of Bellator’s $1 million tournament. With the exception of a dicey second round that saw Higo take his back, Sabatello was in complete control from pillar to post against his Brazilian foe — and though the crowd at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena may not have enjoyed Sabatello’s performance or his post-fight promos, the brash 29-year-old still had the time of his life.
“The boos were music to my cauliflower ears. That was f****** awesome,” Sabatello told reporters after Bellator 282. “What I did specifically like about this fight was in that second round, I faced some adversity. I had a guy like Higo on my back, who’s an absolute killer on somebody’s back. I weathered that storm, I got up, I smiled, I was happy I got out of it, and then I just pushed forward until the next rounds and absolutely f****** dominated him.
“He built up some f****** aggression, some momentum getting that second round victory, and I didn’t give one f***. I had all the fans against me, I had everybody against me, I didn’t give a f***. I went out there and I still f****** dominated him. You can call it whatever the f*** it is.”
The performance extended Sabatello’s current winning streak to six straight and put him at 3-0 since inking a deal with Bellator following a failed bid to reach the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series. Sabatello’s brazen personality has already turned him into one of the breakout names of Bellator’s 135-pound grand prix, and now he’s set to face the toughest task of his career when he meets interim champion Raufeon Stots in his next bout.
The two engaged in a tense in-cage faceoff following Sabatello’s win on Friday, with Stots drawing a massive round of cheers for the insults he lobbed at Sabatello.
Sabatello, however, is undaunted.
“Stots doesn’t stand a chance,” Sabatello said.
“He seemed like a little b**** to me. I don’t know what everybody thought, but I just am going to smoke that m***********. You know what? When you face a guy like Higo and he has really good submissions on the ground, you kind of do have to be a little bit careful. You’ve really got to be smart, because he’s waiting for you to slip up a little bit. He’s a guy that conserves a little bit of energy, and then right when he gets you, he squeezes the f*** out of you, so you’ve got to be very careful. So with him, I couldn’t take too many risks, I had to play it smart,” Sabatello continued.
“When I’ve got a guy like Stots, I don’t have to be smart, because that guy can’t finish f****** anybody, dude. He’s not a finisher. He doesn’t pose a threat to me on the feet, he’s not going to knock me out. He doesn’t pose a threat to me on the ground, he’s not going to submit me. So it’s just going to [be a] free-for-all f****** fight, and it’s just going to be two guys beating the s*** out of each other. Actually, scratch that, I take that back — that’s going to be one guy beating the s*** out of the other guy, and that’s what I’m going to do to him, is beat the s*** out of him, and I don’t have to fight smart. I can be free. I don’t have to be boring. I can do whatever the f*** I want to this guy, because he’s a bum.”
Like Sabatello, Stots is also unbeaten in Bellator (6-0) and rides a lengthy hot streak into the bout of 10 straight wins. In his quarterfinal bout, he knocked out former Bellator champion Juan Archuleta in highlight-reel fashion. He also owns a recent win over fellow semifinalist Magomed Magomedov.
So even though Sabatello may not like Stots, he still respects him far more than he respects Bellator’s current bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis, who is sidelined due to injury.
“Stots is the champion of this division right now. I don’t want to hear s*** about Sergio Pettis. He’s a p****,” Sabatello said. “He couldn’t even make it to the battlefield. I think he pulled his ACL or some s***, I don’t know. He might’ve retired, I don’t know. Stots is also a little b****, but Pettis is a f****** little b****. He is not the champion.
“Stots has that belt and I’m going to take it from him. This is not an interim title fight in my next fight. This is a title fight. So the winner of this f****** fight is going to be the bantamweight champion, and it’s the same thing with winning the tournament. The winner of this tournament is the best bantamweight on planet Earth.”