BJPenn.Com Exclusive: Joey Beltran Talks Alexander Gustafsson, Dominick Cruz and UFC 152
UFC light heavyweight Joey Beltran is a man known for his ability to take an insane amount of punishment as evidenced in his wars with Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry and most recently James Te-Huna. Twice he has earned a bonus check for Fight of the Night and although he lost his first bout as a light heavyweight in the UFC to Te-Huna, he showed once again why he is such a fan favorite.
His go for broke style is what has endeared him to MMA fans, but he is also known for his outgoing personality and being a very loyal teammate. He joined Mitch Ciccarelli & I this past Sunday on BJPenn.Com Radio to discuss a variety of topics including what’s next on the agenda for the San Diego, CA native.
“Right now I’m making the most of the time off before I have a fight booked,” Beltran told BJPenn.Com Radio. “I’m working really hard in the weight room and with my strength coach as well to improve my wrestling and BJJ. I’m working daily with my teammates over at Alliance MMA and Blackline Training Center. Everything is going really well, I’ve been able to heal up some of those nagging injuries that tend to follow you into your fights. My manager spoke to Joe Silva last week and he said to make sure I’m ready especially with all of the injuries that have hit the UFC lately. I just have to be ready to rock and I’m training with the anticipation of getting a call anytime now.”
Injuries are always going to be a worry for UFC President Dana White. These days athletes are training harder, longer and putting their bodies through intense workouts in order to become the best mixed martial artist they can be. With that being said, we asked Beltran what he thought about having a third fighter on standby should one of the main event participants get injured while preparing for their bout.
The UFC could employ this option for the main event fights only and would of course have to compensate this fighter even if his services weren’t needed. This would basically act as an insurance policy and prevent the organization from scrambling at the last minute to find a suitable replacement.
“I actually think that’s a good idea,” admitted Beltran. “It makes sense to have someone on deck and ready to go. It’s ridiculous to have an entire card canceled where everyone loses their paychecks and having it fall on Jon Jones and Dan Henderson’s back. Everyone is quick to hate on Jon, myself included, but the fact of the matter is Henderson held on to that secret too long. But it is what it is at this point.”
This Saturday the UFC invades Toronto, Canada and for the first time in over a year they are showcasing a card with two title fights scheduled. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will defend his belt against Vitor Belfort, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson will battle to determine the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion and in a middleweight showdown Michael Bisping takes on “The All-American” Brian Stann. Beltran gave us his thoughts on all three bouts.
“For starters I think that the flyweight championship is going to be a real awesome fight,” Beltran offered. “I think that Benavidez is a little bit better in every aspect to be honest with you. I think Johnson has some great, dynamic striking and some phenomenal wrestling, but I think Joe is just a step ahead of him. I think it’ll go all five rounds, but I see Benavidez taking it.”
“With Bisping and Stann, I don’t know, that’s going to be a tough one because Stann has shown he is improving with each fight. When I watched Bisping fight Chael Sonnen it changed my opinion of him. I was able to see it live after waking up from being knocked out by Lavar Johnson! Bisping is nuts and I think he takes it by unanimous decision.”
“I’ve been a big fan of Belfort’s for a long time, but I see Jones taking out another old lion. Jones is at that point right now where he is facing everyone who is sort of entering the twilight of their career. It’s perfect timing for him as he can come in new, fresh and dynamic and just blow through all of these guys. There’s going to have to be another Jon Jones, someone we haven’t even heard of, to come in here and smash him. I don’t see anybody except for my boy Alexander Gustafsson, who could be the guy to do it. Not a lot of people know about Alex, but he could be the guy who gets the job done. Right now, I don’t see any of the established veterans beating Jones.”
Speaking of Gustafsson he is scheduled to fight former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC on Fox 5 in December. Rua is coming off a fourth round TKO victory over Brendon Vera, another one of Beltran’s teammates at Alliance. Beltran believes Rua is in for a rude awakening.
“Honestly, I think Alex will kill him,” said Beltran. “If Shogun comes in aggressive, Alex will KO him in the first round. If Shogun tries to be a bit more cerebral in his approach I think he will just prolong the inevitable. We are just barely starting to see Alex’s full potential, this is coming from someone who has to fight him on a daily basis when he’s in America and it sucks!”
“I told my coach Eric Del Fierro that I was really training for the time when the Mauler comes back because I don’t want to be out of shape and get my ass whooped. Sparring with him is a lot of fun, but at the same time it’s not fun at all. It’s great training, but if you’re not minding your P’s and Q’s you’ll get put on your butt real quick.”
The fans really respect Beltran for his ability to take punishment as well as he can hand it out. He developed a solid chin at a very young age when he was forced to face older opponents when he began boxing because he was bigger than the other kids his age.
“I’ve always had a good chin, I was really big growing up and I started boxing when I was 10,” Beltran stated. “They made me box kids that were like 15 because I was so big and I got used to getting cracked by teenagers when I was just a kid. When I was a teenager they had me facing adults and I’ve been used to taking heavy shots. I’m sure it won’t be so good when I get older, but I’ve been hit with objects during street fights and it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“I’ve got some funny stories about some of the street fights I’ve been in. One night me and this girl were walking home from a bar and were going to my friend’s apartment which was in walking distance from the bar. We had stopped to get some burritos and started walking when I saw my friend arguing with two guys in the street.”
“So I walked up and didn’t say anything, I was minding my own business eating my burrito when one of the guys looked at me and said what the f**k are you going to do fat boy? I dropped my burrito, hit him once and he was out. The girl that was with him looks at him and says Oh My God M****r F****r, not again you idiot! I do have to say I haven’t had one street fight since I began competing professionally.”
Fans of Dominick Cruz were saddened when he was forced out of his rubber match with Urijah Faber a few months back. A torn ACL can take anywhere from 9-18 months depending on the severity of the injury and how hard the patient is willing to work. Considering Cruz relies heavily on speed and foot movement he will want to be absolutely sure he is 100% when he returns to face interim champ Renan Barao.
“I think that he will break records in terms of how fast he comes back from an ACL injury,” said The Mexicutioner. “He’s looking great, he hasn’t been sparring or grappling, but he looks phenomenal as far as his rehab exercises are concerned. He’s progressing at a ridiculous rate and I would say he’ll be back by mid 2013. He’s being smart about it because it’s easy to reinjure that type of injury. He’s been stir crazy because he’s a workaholic and addicted to training. He’s literally driving himself nuts!”