When you start your professional MMA career with two incredible first-round victories, it’s hard to imagine how things could get any more impressive. Yet for Connecticut’s Mike Kimbel, who earned a highlight-reel slam finish in his first fight and a six-second knockout in his second, things are just getting started.
Kimbel has had both of his professional fights come under the Bellator banner in his home state of Connecticut, and his third will be no different.
As he prepares to take on Jonathan Douma at Bellator 215 this Friday, he spoke with BJPenn.com, discussing the rocket-fuelled rise of his career, receiving a call from Conor McGregor, and how his past has helped mold him into the fighter he is today.
While his highlights have been played non-stop, Kimbel says he’s not looking back at his first two Bellator performances, because the next fight always matters more.
“In my personal opinion, every fight is the biggest fight,” Kimbel stated. “At the end of the day, every fight is the fight. No matter if I’m in China or Connecticut, I’m just blessed that my first fight is on the main card in front of my people at home. I’m looking to be a spark in the community and I feel like I’ve got a lot of pressure on my back but I like it ’cause I feel like I’m going to emerge as a diamond after this one.”
While some fighters would feel added pressure fighting in front of their home state, Mike Kimbel says there’s no added pressure, only added attention.
“I’m my biggest critic at the end of the day, so as far as added pressure, I don’t feel any added pressure, cause it’s pressure,” Kimbel said. “You’re 21, I come from a place where nobody makes it, and now people got their faith in me thinking that I’ll make it, and I know I’ll make it. I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure, there’s definitely more eyes. I’m willing to accept all that comes with this, the positives, the prayers, the praise, or the slander, I’m ready for all aspects of this game and I’m going to go out there and deliver.”
In what can only be considered coincidental, Kimbel has not only fought at the Mohegan Sun Arena in all of his Bellator appearances, but he’s also fought on the same card as heavyweight veteran Matt Mitrione, who will headline Bellator 215. At first, he was excited to be fighting amongst the stars, but he says now he’s getting used to it.
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Kimbel said. “My first Bellator fight I was like, ‘dang, I’m up here with the stars,’ But I had to block it out cause I had my own fight. This is no different. It’s exciting to be up there with guys that I’ve watched and to know that it’s real, it’s a good feeling.”
Being around stars is nothing new to Kimbel. Before his record-tying knockout in his last Bellator appearance, Kimbel heard from one of the biggest star in all of MMA, former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, who Kimbel shares a management agency with.
“It was cool, it was good,” Kimbel shared. “
Being young and thriving early in his career, Kimbel feels no fear for his future. He’s confident that is his status as a martial artist has him prepared for the time that a fight doesn’t go his way and he suffers a loss.
“Here’s the thing, I’m a martial artist at the end of the day,” Kimbel said. “I’m not defined by a win. Every day I’m getting one percent better. There would be nothing sour if I lost. Winners focus on winning, and I’m focused on winning but I’m a man at the end of the day, and a win doesn’t define me and a loss doesn’t define me. A lot of these people are scared to lose, I go in there ready to kill and willing to die. These guys go in there selecting the best matchups they can because of that fear of losing, there’s no fear in me.”
The mindset that Mike Kimbel has instilled in himself doesn’t come from all the time he’s put in the gym. It comes from the fights that he’s had outside the gym. He says he grew up having to fight just to stay alive.
“The people who come in here at 18, 19 years old, they’ve been wrestling or boxing their whole life growing up, I’ve been getting my ass kicked in real fights,” Kimbel said. “Fights where if you don’t win, you’re not making it home, so I’m much
Mike Kimbel has set plenty of goals for himself in 2019, and he feels he’s been built to achieve them.
“As a kid, my mom always raised me to be strong, she never raised me to point the finger at anybody,” Kimbel detailed. “You man up for what you say, you man up for what you do and you take responsibility for all your actions on all levels. My mom has raised me to be firm. My environment and my friends growing up, everybody wanted to be a gangster. I was smaller than most kids growing up so I had to be more tenacious and ferocious than the people around me or I wouldn’t have gotten out of there. I used to fight in the bathrooms at 2:30, I used to have the fight people at the park and that’s just at 13.
“At 18, I went through some of my own things, I was a little rebellious and all of that but when I was 17 I didn’t think I’d make it to 18, and when I was 18, I didn’t think I’d make it to 19. But when I finally turned 20, I told myself I’m doing it. I’ve been shot at before amateur fights, I’ve been in car accidents with 18-wheelers, and I’m completely unfazed, so I’m obviously here for a reason. I think that reason is to be the greatest champion the world has ever seen, and I know I’m speaking far into the future but right before Bellator 215, I told you first: I’m here for a reason.”
When Mike Kimbel steps into the Bellator cage for his third professional fight this weekend, he knows it will be bigger than his last and the fight after this one will be even bigger still.
The future is bright for Mike Kimbel and while his professional career is still just getting started, he’s been fighting for this his entire life.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/14/2019