With the incredible job, the UFC has done putting fights on during this global pandemic it’s now time for the return of Bellator. Cass Bell will return and put his undefeated record on the line against Raufeon Stots.
Scott Coker and Bellator get their schedule back underway on Friday, July 24th in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bellator 242 is headlined by UFC veteran Sergio Pettis and Ricky Bandejas.
An exciting preliminary bout awaits us between the undefeated Californian Cass Bell and Houston born Raufeon Stots.
Cass Bell (5-0) look’s to build on his recent success since turning professional. Bell left the amateur circuit behind at the end of 2016. Making his official professional debut at Bellator 199 in 2018 with an impressive ground and pound finish over Khai Wu.
The 33-year old has wasted no time since then, picking up back to back stoppage victories over Ty Costa, Peter Ishiguro, and Isaiah Rocha. Shortly after experiencing the full 15 minutes when defeating Pierre Daguzan via unanimous decision. Bell is a real threat to the Bantamweight division with his majestic grappling credentials and danger to finish the fight at any minute.
Raufeon Stots (13-1) comes into the matchup riding a 5 fight winning streak. The last time the American tasted defeat was in 2017 against Merab Dvalishvili who since then has gone on to be a dominant force in the UFC’s Bantamweight division.
How’s life been for you in quarantine with the current global pandemic and how have you been keeping yourself fit and healthy?
Bell – “Life has been crazy. I went from training multiple times a day, coaching up to 100+ kids 6 days a week to being forced by California to shelter in place. We were only allowed to leave the house for essentials, so staying fit became a challenge. I realized just how important it was to stay active when I realised how bad my sons asthma had got since he stopped working out. He’d had it his whole life, but he’s always been active so it was never an issue, but as he slowed down it got worse, so we made sure we we’re all moving again. After that I figured out way’s to train and spent time fixing our quads/motorcycles just to stay busy. As the restrictions started to relax my coaches and I started figuring out what MMA training looks like in the age of COVID-19.”
I can imagine your ecstatic with Bellator being back underway while watching the UFC put shows on. When were you approached by Bellator to take on Stots and how much time have you had to prepare?
Bell – “I was approached a couple of weeks ago. So it has been super short notice. I was hoping they were going to get me on it since I was scheduled to fight in May before they cancelled their upcoming events. I was surprised when I finally got the call since everything had been quiet, but I was eager to take the fight because I just want to fight.”
Many of your previous opponents like Rocha and Ishiguro have had the short styles and try to walk you down with your back against the cage. They’ve learned very quickly that you’re comfortable everywhere and can finish. Where does that confidence come from?
Bell – “Time. I had a very long amateur career. I come from a small gym in the middle of nowhere. Their were no UFC or Bellator fighters I was training with to show me love and try to build me up. I didn’t have a coach who had 6 other fighters in big shows. Literally everyone stepping foot on a big stage knows someone. I never had that. I had nobody to lead the way for me. I did have a coach who knows it all, who has the knowledge and the experience of a big name coach. I just happened to find Josh Thompson early. We done it the hard way.
“We set a game plan out and stuck to it. I fought anyone and everyone. I fought Featherweight as an amateur to push myself. I fought the best guys I could find. The only fights I lost were when the opponent didn’t make weight or I agreed to a catch fight. I fought for the big amateur promotions with my last fights being for king of the cage. I won the title in Las Vegas in front of Dana White. The number of fights and calibre of opponents helped me get super comfortable in the cage. All these things allow me to focus and be the fighter I need to be no matter what an opponent throws my way. You wanna stand and bang? You want to grapple? You want to wrestle and hold? cool I have an answer for that.”
You currently ride a five-fight winning streak with Bellator and your whole professional career has taken place under Bellator. What’s the relationship been like with Bellator and Scott Coker?
Bell – “It’s been great. When I first started out it was a single fight. When he gave me the opportunity I promised him I would deliver. I was on the undercard, and I was an unknown, but I proved myself that night and he’s brought me back on a multi fight contract.”
You’re 5 fights deep with Bellator with 4 stoppages. Your last outing you saw your first decision. How important was it for you to actually go the distance and learn more about yourself.
Bell – “Ya know. It was good to do. I really think I could have finished him but I really wanted that head kick knockout. I promised a fan who’s birthday it was that I’d head kick my opponent. If he hadn’t turned his back and ran from me so many times I would have had him. I knew I had three rounds in me, I’ve fought to decision a few times. Some being three and some being five round wars. It was good to show Bellator and the new fans that I have the tank to go three rounds. You know, my fight before that lasted 90 seconds, and the others didn’t make it out of round 2. My fans drive 6 hours to see me fight usually. Maybe I owed the fans a little more cage time for all the money and time they spent.”
As stated your professional career only started two years ago. Winding back to your last amateur bout. Could you have asked for a better start?
Bell – “It definitely has been a great start but it was always the plan. That’s why my coaches wanted me to fight above my size and to fight the top guys. Your amateur career is about challenging yourself, you’re supposed to lose and get back up and fight again. That way you know you can fix your game before you go pro when the record matters.”
Your opponent Stots has a bit more experience than you with 14 fights under his belt but not on the biggest stage. A lot of people talk about experience and cage time playing a factor in fights. Do you feel this is the case in this one? What are your views?
Bell – “Experience is important, but like I said, with around 30 fights in my career, I’m experienced. I just did my time fighting as an amateur fighting the toughest guys, not caring if I lost, getting valuable experience that you miss out on when you are a pro trying to make sure you have a marketable record.”
Have you had much time with your coaches to study Stots game and if so how do you view him as a competitor? Any strengths and weaknesses you could point out?
Bell – “I was actually signed to fight him back in May, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. He’s a grinder and a wrestler, he takes it to the decision more often than not, so he’s got the tank to go the distance. As far as weaknesses go I haven’t seen him in a real war yet. I know i can weather it, the question is, can he?”.
When I’ve watched your previous bouts with Bellator, I always hear your grappling credentials and submission threat being praised. Why is that do you think as you’re also finishing guys on the feet, do you feel you’ve become well rounded everywhere?
Bell – “I’ve had 3 submissions, but two of those came directly after knockdowns. I’m sure part of it has to do with my involvement within the wrestling and BJJ community. When you look at that, combined with the knockdowns followed by submission wins. It’s easy to label me a submission guy and I’m ok with that. It just makes my stand up that much more impressive put it on display.”
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