Photos by Bellator MMA photographer Lucas Noonan
Tonight, Joe Warren will enter the Bellator cage for a record-tying 19th time in his illustrious career tonight when he faces Joe Taimanglo in the co-main event of the evening at Bellator 195 live from the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. As an accomplished amateur wrestler and the only two division champion in the company’s history, Warren is used to having gold wrapped around his neck and waist.
Before he makes that walk again tonight, the former featherweight and bantamweight champion talks to Tony Reid about his family’s sacrifices, his intention of beating up the next generation of fighters and the origin of his now infamous nickname.
Tony Reid – If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see which fight are you choosing and why?
Joe Warren – “I had so many big fights. Beating Kid Yamamoto in front of all the Japanese fans, winning that title shot against Joe Soto were both big. It would be one of those two. I would pick a fight where it means something.”
TR – If you could fight anyone in any weight class who would you want to fight?
JW – “I would like to fight Bibiano Fernandes again. We fought for the DREAM belt, it was stopped after an armbar. That’s one I would like to get again before it’s all said and done.”
TR – If you a family man, with a wife and two little ones at home. Talk about the deal you and your wife had as far as who chose to work and why?
JW – “She is a few years older than me. We went to college and when I graduated I moved out to the Olympic Training Center and started wrestling. Coming out of college you don’t have a lot of money. She moved me out there and she got a medical sales job to take care of us until I was done. We had a deal where she would work for eight years, take care of me while I was training and winning all of my medals and world championships and once we decided to have children she would stop working and I would start working. That’s where we are right now. That’s the role reversal. She was making a lot more money than me and now everything is on my shoulders, so there is a little more pressure.”
TR – You have stated that you already had the Bellator championship and yet had no idea how to strike. That’s a pretty interesting statement and position. Can you elaborate on that?
JW – “When I joined Bellator it was the first season. I started (MMA) three months before that I fought in DREAM. I didn’t really have the time to learn technique, I was just learning positioning and how to be safe. I got into Bellator and won four fights in four months. I was just trying to keep in shape and keep fighting hard so I won the belt before I really understood what striking was. I believe I am just understanding it now. I believe my hands are really violent now. Nobody has seen that yet. Hopefully I will be able to knock someone out here soon and impress myself with that. I’m not a striker, I’m a wrestler. I think my striking has progressed a lot since the beginning of my time with Bellator.”
TR – You have been with Bellator for most of the company’s history, what has been the most amazing aspect of the growth of the company to this point?
JW – “I’m honored to be with Bellator. I see myself as their spokesman. What I notice is the leadership. The people at the top of the food chain are making the right choices and giving us more opportunity for exposure. It’s exciting, Bellator is where the cool kids fight right now. There is a lot of cool stuff going on right now. There is a lot of money behind it right now. We are just very excited.
“I’m honored to be considered a spokesperson for the company. I started my career with Bellator and they built me to where I am now. They gave me the opportunities to make myself the star I am now and I took that opportunity and grew it. I bleed for Bellator, so I’m not going anywhere.”
TR – Your waist is bare right now. You neck wasn’t bare very often in your wrestling career either, so what is it going to take to wrap another piece of gold around your waist?
JW – “I’m a champion competitor and I’m used to having a goal in front of me. Right now, not having a belt or a gold medal on my neck feels strange. I have to make another push for this bantamweight belt. It’s the life of a wrestler, always trying to take that one (more) step forward. I’m a realist. I’m 41. This is a young man’s sport. I plan on beating these young guys up and then getting out of the game. That’s the great thing about Bellator, they are giving me opportunities outside the cage as well.”
TR – It’s widely thought that wrestling is the best base for a future career in mixed martial arts. You have said that just because a guy is a good wrestler doesn’t mean the transition to MMA with automatically be a smooth one. Can you elaborate?
JW – “We see a lot of great wrestlers in MMA that are making the transition but it’s not easy. Especially from a freestyle or collegiate background. When someone from that background gets in trouble the natural reaction is to level change and drop their hands. That’s where guys get in trouble. With a Greco background like mine, or Randy Couture or Matt Lindland, I think we are a little more ready for fighting than a freestyle guy. It’s a mentality. There are a lot of wrestlers who like to play the game and run the score up and not really get into that hand to hand combat aspect of the sport. I respect the sport of MMA more and more every day. I took it as just another body in front of me that I had to run through somehow. Now that I’m learning the sport and other aspects of it I totally respect it and it’s an honor to have these belts.”
TR – When did you realize you are the “Baddest Man on the Planet”?
JW – “It came from wrestling. I can remember back in 8th grade telling myself I was the baddest 103 pounder in the state of Michigan. That’s where it came from. My coaches taught us about how strong our minds where. If I can control my mind I can control my body. I leaned at a young age that if I can mentally talk myself into those things I can get it done. I would stand on the corner of the mat and say “I am the baddest 103 pounder no one can beat me.” Then it went to “I’m the baddest 133 pounder in the country no one can touch me.” Then it switched to “I’m the best 60kg guy in the country no one can beat me.” Then it switched to “I’m the baddest man on the planet no one can touch me.” So after I won a world championship in China I came off the medal stand and the press asked me how I felt and I said “Like the baddest man on the planet.” So that’s where it came from. I use it as a brainwashing tool. So before I go into the cage I tell myself that. All the nerves and tingles in my arms go away and I start to believe it.”