Juliana Velasquez defends her flyweight world championship against Denise Kielholtz at Bellator 262. This main event bout goes down on Friday, July 16th from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
I spoke with the promotion’s reigning 125-pound champion ahead of this card see to broadcast on Showtime. Below are several excerpts from my conversation with the undefeated fighter who is now Bellator’s second-ever flyweight queen.
Mapping out a 2020 title shot before the Bruna Ellen fight and having her championship dreams actualized into reality despite the rampant uncertainty of the global pandemic
“It took a long time to get there. Everyone in the world has had some issues recently because of the pandemic. Not many people know I had COVID leading up to the fight. It affected my training camp and my performance. That was the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome. Of course, I was free of COVID but I was still bearing the issues that come with it. But everything turned out okay and I got the belt. So that’s what mattered in the end.”
Dedicating her championship win to her late brother Rafael whose image is tattooed on her arm
“It was amazing to finally accomplish that. He was someone who’s been with me all the time who was always supporting my career. Through my challenges in MMA. To be able to dedicate that to him, it was amazing. Not just him but my family. Everyone that supports me so far, and not just this title fight I’m dedicating to him. But the title defense as well, and every other title fight. Every other win that I have in my career, could really be dedicated to him.”
Not achieving her goal of getting a Judo gold medal and if the Bellator belt represented that sort of a capstone achievement for Juliana Velasquez
“Yeah, for sure. I come from an Olympic sport. My dream was to make the Olympics and win the gold medal in Judo. To me, I wasn’t able to get to the Olympics. But this world title feels the same as that gold medal. I’m sure that every time I win and fight that’s how it’s gonna feel for me.”
This being her first title defense and cementing herself as Bellator’s second flyweight champion
“Yes, that’s how I take every other step. This fight I’ve prepared like it’s the most important fight of my life. That’s the motivation that I have. To be better and to get better every fight.”
Thoughts on Denise Kielholtz’s fight methodology overall
“She’s a very, very good fighter. She’s not just a kickboxer, she’s also a Judo Black Belt. Although we think we know what she’s gonna do during the fight. She’s a bit unknown. She can do more than what she’s known for. But I’m prepared to every aspect of this fight. If she’s gonna strike, I’m ready for it. If we’re gonna grapple, I’m ready for it. I did everything that was needed for this fight.”
The Bellator MMA fans being in attendance for this one
“I feel happy because it shows that we’re closer to getting back to normal life. And I like to have fans in the arena. What I like more about this is that things are getting back into control.”
Velasquez’s desire for a Bellator flyweight Grand Prix run in the future
“Yeah for sure. I would love to have a Grand Prix in my division. To have that belt, that’s something that I would love to be part of.”