HONOLULU, HI (Wednesday, April 20, 2022) – In preparation for a weekend full of fight action, BELLATOR MMA 278: Velasquez vs. Carmouche main card fightersand select BELLATOR MMA 279: Cyborg vs. Blencowe 2 / Archuleta vs. Stots combatants spoke to the media today before putting their talents to the test inside the cage on Friday, April 22 and Saturday April 23 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena.
Warming up the cage ahead of the BELLATOR 279 card on Saturday, BELLATOR’S Friday show will be headlined by a Women’s Flyweight World Championship matchup between undefeated Juliana Velasquez (12-0) and women’s MMA pioneer and No. 2-ranked flyweight Liz Carmouche (16-7). Two fire-cracking wild card bouts will also take place as part of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix between Enrique Barzola (17-5-2) who will be facing Nikita Mikhailov (9-1) and No.9-ranked Jornel Lugo (8-0) challenging Danny Sabatello (11-1). The winner of Barzola vs. Mikhailov will move on to face Magomed Magomedov (18-2) and the winner of Lugo vs. Sabatello will fight Leandro Higo (21-5). In a light heavyweight contest, Christian Edwards (5-1) will fight No. 9-ranked Grant Neal (6-1). Opening the televised card in a 160-pound contract weight bout, Manny Muro (12-7) will measure his skills up against Nate Andrews (16-4).
Part one of the duo of events BELLATOR will be hosting over the weekend, BELLATOR 278 is a special event for current military, veterans, and first responders. Admission can be redeemed at the box office beginning at 2 p.m. HST and is free for any individual with valid proof of military or work identification, plus a guest.
SHOWTIME will televise the BELLATOR 278 main card at 4 p.m. HST local time, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The preliminary card will stream live on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and Pluto TV beginning at 3 p.m. HST local time, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Here is what the BELLATOR 278 fighters had to say:
JULIANA VELASQUEZ: BELLATOR FLYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION (VIDEO)
“Carmouche is a very experienced fighter but today I am the world champion, not her. I look at the poster and I’m super stoked to be here. But I think I should be in the women’s pound-for-pound discussion. I have one fight coming up and my name is for sure going to be on the list after this matchup.
“Carmouche is definitely my most experienced opponent, but I don’t think she’s my hardest task. A fight is a fight so let’s see what happens. I think Lara from Colombia and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane were my toughest opponents.
“I just want to solidify my belt at flyweight but it’s definitely in my plans to go up and become the first woman to hold two titles simultaneously.”
LIZ CARMOUCHE: NO. 1-RANKED BELLATOR FEMALE FLYWEIGHT (VIDEO)
“I think everybody talks about Velasquez being a black belt in judo. That’s the most challenging thing but at the same time, if the ground is where she wants to go, I’d love to show her what the ground looks like with me. I don’t think that’s something she’s going to want to use. I think she’s going to want to keep it standing.”
“I think in part it’s a front that she’s saying I’m not her toughest test. If I am being overlooked, great. I love being underrated. It just makes it that much sweeter for me.
“I saw zero evolution in Velasquez from the Macfarlane fight to the Denise Kielholtz fight. She looked like the same fighter in every fight that I’ve seen so far.”
ENRIQUE BARZOLA: BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT (VIDEO)
“I feel very good. I’m excited for this opportunity with BELLATOR. I’m ready for this fight on Friday. I was always ready for this opportunity and waiting for it. My coach and my team told me every day that this was a possibility. I just had to keep continuing my training. This opportunity is great for me.
“The change in opponent didn’t change much. It’s no problem for me. It’s the same work. My work with my team was great. I believe in my team. I believe in myself and my coach. It’s the same. I’m happy for this fight with Nikita Mikhailov.
“My plan is to put Mikhailov under pressure. I have great cardio. I think this guy is comfortable to go to the ground. But my pressure and my mental is different now. I’m going to destroy this guy.”
NIKITA MIKHAILOV: BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT (VIDEO)
“I’m very happy to be participating in the Grand Prix. I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. I’m going to do everything I can to win this.
“I don’t really know what Barzola is going to bring in this fight. All I know is that we have our own plan, and we are going to stick to it. I’m 23 years old. As a sportsman, I’ve matured. I’m ready for the top guys in the division.”
JORNEL LUGO: BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT (VIDEO)
“I wasn’t even supposed to be in the tournament, obviously. For me to get in, two people had to fall out. Not one, but two. That happened. The fact that I’m even ranked, I’m 8-0. I’m not supposed to even be ranked. I just so happen to have more fights in BELLATOR than most of these other guys like Brett Johns, Danny Sabatello, Enrique Barzola. These guys are veterans and they’re not ranked. But because I’ve been here for so long and have five fights, I was ranked.
“On paper, I think Sabatello is my toughest test to date. But I think people are judging him too much on paper. If you watch him fight and you break down his skillset, I don’t think he’s my toughest fight.
“You know exactly what Danny is going to do. He’s coming in there to shoot low and to try to hold on to me the whole time. With me, you never know what I’m going to do. I might go in there and wrestle. I might go in there and stand. I might move around a lot. I might walk you down. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I’m going to do but it’s a good thing that the question even has to be asked.”
DANNY SABATELLO: BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT (VIDEO)
“I think that people that really study the sport and know MMA already know my name and know how good I am… I think people that do understand the sport know how good I am and know my capabilities. They know that I’m more than capable of winning this whole f*ing tournament and not only doing that but dominating everybody along the way.
That’s really the goal. My goal this fight against Jornel Lugo isn’t just to beat him. I won’t be satisfied just beating him. I need to f*ing torture him.
“The problem with this sport is that people only remember you from your last fight so that last fight, I didn’t get a finish. But I am a finisher. I finish almost all my fights. I kneed a guy in the head and knocked him out. I’ve kicked a guy in the head and knocked him out. I’ve submitted multiple people. I am a finisher.”
BELLATOR 279 FIGHTERS:
YANCY MEDEIROS: BELLATOR LIGHTWEIGHT (VIDEO)
JUSTIN GONZALES: BELLATOR FEATHERWEIGHT (VIDEO)
KAI KAMAKA III: BELLATOR FEATHERWEIGHT (VIDEO)
KEONI DIGGS: BELLATOR LIGHTWEIGHT (VIDEO)