Donald Ballou, the current Hardrock MMA flyweight champion is moving up to challenge for the vacant bantamweight title at Hardrock MMA against Jeremy Pender on October 12. I talked with Donnie Ballou about his upcoming challenge and who he is as a fighter.
What type of fighter you are, how long you’ve been training and one thing about your personal life outside of fighting that fans should know about you?
“I like to think of myself as a hard-nosed gritty fighter, I can go the distance if need be but I’m always looking for a finish. I’ve been training MMA since 2010 right out of high school because I saw a flyer. I’ve been wrestling since the 7th grade. I think it makes fights better for fans when they can put a story to the fighter, and know where they came from. I lost my father in the 10th grade, my wrestling coach stepped in and guided me all the way through until this very day. Competing is all I’ve ever known; it’s saved my life.”
Going to your last fight for a second, what were you able to learn from the loss and how do you feel going from a loss to a title fight?
“My last fight was a loss but I know it was a breakthrough for my career, I let my hands go a bit, I through some big elbows, I caused a lot of damage. It was a confidence booster for myself. I’m always looking to prove myself, I want to prove I belong in that cage with anyone. So going from a loss to an even bigger fight and bigger name opponent fits the bill for me. I’m not here for the easy route, I’m in it for the right reasons.”
You previously had a fight scheduled for September in Boston but it was cancelled at the last minute, how did that affect you and how have you refocused for this fight?
“I had a fight scheduled for September in Boston; the opponent backed out. I took that small bump and channeled it into a positive. It just means I’ve been in shape and I’ve been ready longer than my opponent this Saturday.”
Was it weird having two fights to focus on the same time and now that you only have one will that help you?
“It never feels weird to have more than one fight scheduled because I don’t really look at the opponents too hard. I’m not a guy that sits and watches videos of my opponent and game plan for months. It’s a fight, you can plan, but anything can happen. My focus is to be in shape and be ready, sharp, in all areas of the cage. Do that and the rest comes naturally. “
You fought at flyweight before and are now challenging for the bantamweight title at HR MMA 111, is there a specific reason you are moving up in weight?
“Flyweight is my home weight but I’ve been known to move up to 135 when I can’t find any 125 fighters. I like to stay active, and challenge myself. I believe in my abilities and what I can do with any man that makes weight and is out in front of me. This specific fight made sense, I wanted to rebound with a bang, moving up a weight allows me to try to be the first pro double champ at Hardrock MMA. I want to be noticed, so this is the route I felt was best.”
Do you think there will be any advantages for you coming up in weight? Any disadvantages?
“Coming up a weight class means less weight cutting for me, I’m going to feel good, conditioned and hydrated. Mentally it’s a confidence booster. Volume is always a concern with bigger guys when fighting up a weight, they have bigger frames and can use that extra mass really well. It’s important to fight a smart fight.”
Your last win came against Robert Walker III and your opponent’s last fight (and win) was against the same opponent, can anything be taken away from that?
“We both finished Robert Walker in a similar fashion. My opponent and I have had success in the same areas, makes for an exciting matchup.”
How do you like the matchup with Pender and what are your keys to victory?
“I like the matchup with Pender because I know I can provide a level of wrestling he hasn’t seen before. He’s a solid grappler that imposes his will, but his wrestling hasn’t been put to the test from someone with my skill set. It lets me dictate where this fight goes, I win this fight with cage control. I say where this fight goes, when I want it to go there. I’ve got ability to make him uncomfortable, I’m going to test his will power.”