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By: Alvin Benjamin Carter III, MMATorch Specialist
Mixed Martial Arts is an international sport, and a lot of fans think of it solely on this global scale. The reality is most of today's athlete start on a local or regional circuit before hitting the big promotions. When an athlete gets the nod to compete on the big stage, they have to bring more than just slick submissions and/or knockout power. They need to bring potential, and most importantly local fans if they are competing near their home area.
All promotions use local fighters to bolster ticket sales, but Bellator MMA has been extremely strategic in their regional matchmaking. The reality is that fighters on undercards in their area need to sell tickets at their gym, to their friends and family, and to anyone else for that matter. The gate is very important to promotions, especially if PPV is not a main source of income. The promotion gets a boost in sales, and the fighters get to take their career to the next level, or continue pushing forward if they have already fought for the promotion in the past.
Kin "Kong" Moy from Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge, Mass. and Matt "The Mangler" Bessette represent both scenarios, respectively, as they are fighting on the September 5 Bellator 123 card at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Kin Moy is making his Bellator debut, and Bellator veteran Bessette from Underdog BJJ will be attempting to make more waves. Both fighters took time out of their training camps to discuss fighting for Bellator, the New England mixed martial arts scene, and what being a martial artist means to them.
MMATorch: Matt, this is not your first go round in Bellator. You made it to the semifinals of the featherweight tournament earlier this year. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to get back on track in your own backyard?
Matt Bessette: It's an honor to fight for Bellator. They have some of the best fighters in the world. Guys that come out to put on a show and win fights while doing it. I'm glad to be a part of it all.
MMATorch: How about you Kin? This is your Bellator debut. You have had some excellent fights on the way to this point of your career, but how does this opportunity stack up to your previous ones?
Kin Moy: The main difference here is exposure. While Bellator is home to some of the world's best fighters, they also feature athletes who are just transitioning from the regional scene to the national stage. I'd consider myself and my opponent, Steve Garcia, to fall under this category.
To be honest, this is a fight that could happen on the local scene, but is taking place in a bigger promotion. We're both on the cusp of breaking into the deeper waters of MMA. Our paths are funneling into a collision course, and for the time being, only the winner of this fight will emerge with both his momentum and perfect record in-tact.
MMATorch: Matt, what is the fighting scene like in the Hartford, Conn. area. Growing up there were a lot of karate dojos. What is the landscape like now?
Bessette: Connecticut itself still isn't a big hotbed for MMA just yet. Guys like myself, Nick Newell, and Brennan Ward are quickly changing that around. Normally, you'd have to travel to Mass., Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or New Jersey to train with some high level fighters. Not anymore.
MMATorch: Kin, what is the fighting scene like in the Greater Boston area?
Moy: It's amazing how far the New England scene has come in the last few years. In the past, there were only a few promotions that held MMA fights. Nowadays, there's such an abundance that you can catch some fights every other weekend! Furthermore, there wasn't always an amateur circuit for aspiring fighters to get their feet wet. There was a time when your very first fight entailed five-minute rounds and the potential to get kneed and elbowed in the face! As you can imagine, this made for some sloppy fights, snooze-fests, and many a one-sided beatdown for fledgling mixed martial artists.
Currently, there's a thriving amateur circuit (something I've benefited from) that allows fighters to gradually ready themselves for truly professional level competition. The majority of fights held in New England are amateur bouts, but every fight card has a sprinkling of professional duels to top-off the main card. I'd say that the present New England MMA scene has reached a consistent level of quality that will produce even more world-class fighters than ever before.
Following the trails blazed by Joe Lauzon, John Howard, Kenny Florian, and Josh Grispi, we've got more and more of our fighters making a splash on the big scene! I'm hoping to one day join the likes of Joe Proctor, Rick Hawn, Nick Newell, Pat Walsh, Matt Bessette, and Rob Font (And if you ask me, that day might be coming soon).
MMATorch: Who are you fighting at Mohegan Sun on September 5? Have you ever fought on a card this stacked?
Bessette: Stacked shmacked. The crowd will be behind The Mangler when it's all said and done. Doesn't matter who you bring in to put on the same card as me. The fans love me for two reasons: 1) I'd die in the cage. 2) I love the fans as much as they love me!
Moy: The man standing across the cage from me will be New Mexico native, Steve "Mean Machine" Garcia. He's a 6 ft tall bantamweight southpaw, sporting 4 (T)KO's to his name - two of which came from Bellator. This is certainly going to be my toughest test to date and I'm relishing the challenge.
In regards to the card, Bellator is definitely the biggest show that I've fought for, so I don't think that I could say that I've been on such a stacked card in the past. Though, CES 21 was pretty big.
MMATorch: Where do you train, and what is your training camp looking like? Does your previous life of powerlifting play into your conditioning?
Bessette: I train at Underdog Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Hartford, Conn., but I also travel to Mass. and Rhode Island to prepare for fights. It gives me a lot of new looks as the fight draws closer. As far as lifting goes, I lift less when the fight gets closer, but a few months out, I'm lifting heavier to put on strength and power.
Moy: I train and fight out of Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge. So far, my camp primarily consists of training sharpening my individual skillsets - like striking, jiujitsu, and wrestling. As August nears, the focus will begin to shift away from individual arts and on to the specifics of MMA itself.
MMATorch: Do you plan to stay at featherweight or is a lightweight tournament a possibility in the future?
Bessette: Yeah, I'm a featherweight now. It took me awhile to realize, but I'm an undersized lightweight and I look and feel great at featherweight. I'm able to compete with the best guys in the world at featherweight. It's been a good move for me.
MMATorch: How about you Kin? Do you plan to stay at your current weight, or would you shift weight classes if the right opportunity shows up?
Moy: I'm not sure that I could make a lower weight class than 135 lbs., to be honest. Many people have suggested that I consider competing at flyweight, but I have a hard enough time getting down to my current weight class. Though for this camp, I'm utilizing the 24-day Avocare Weight Loss Program to maximize the ease and efficiency of my cut. If all goes well, there's the possibility that I might be able to go even lower... But then again, one of my other sponsors is the addictive and delicious Chicken & Rice Guys food truck. It's a constant battle for my soul.
On the other hand, I'd consider doing fights at 145 lbs. on the local scene. I'm all about the idea of testing my skill against a physical disadvantage in size and strength. I definitely find myself excited to work with bigger guys in training, so maybe some day down the line I'll give that a shot in actual competition as well. But I have no illusions about that being a viable career path for me.
MMATorch: Are you excited for the possible shift in format at Bellator MMA now that Scott Coker is at the helm? If so, why?
Bessette: I'm a glass half full kind of guy. Change can be bad, but I like to think of things positively. I'm excited to perform for the new boss. I have no doubt that he'll appreciate the way I fight!
Moy: I'm not even aware of what the proposed shift in format would be. All I know is that Bellator puts on excellent shows, and I trust that they'll continue to do just that. Even more so, I'm excited for the opportunity to be a part of that!
MMATorch: What does martial arts mean to you? You have been fighting on the big stage for awhile, but would you be involved in MMA or martial arts in general even if you were not competing at this level?
Bessette: If I weren't at this level now, I'd still be training and fighting. I'm a fighter at heart and the lifestyle of a martial artist is of self-discipline, honor, respect, love, dedication, and when in the right atmosphere, friendships. This life I've fallen into is one that I'd never trade.
Moy: Oh man, I could go on forever about that. In short, I'd say that martial arts are a beautiful intersection between our primal instinct to prevail at all costs (kill or be killed) and our sentient intellect. Physical violence is among our most primitive tendencies. In martial arts, that visceral instinct is filtered through technique and strategy born from intelligent innovation and disciplined, methodical practice. Martial arts allow us to embrace our identities as the dominant species in all of its savage and intellectual glory.
And on a more personal level, martial arts are a vehicle for self-improvement and a tool for learning. Nothing tests your will more than eating a liver shot, then getting taken down and mounted. Everything hurts, you can't breathe, you can barely move, and nobody wants to hear about your excuses. What do you do now? Do you push through the pain and persevere or do you wilt and give in to defeat? Either way, it's only Wednesday, so you'll get to make that decision again before the week is over.
Yet it''s through those countless tests of mettle that I've learned how to manage myself in tough times. It's because I'm constantly assessing and dissecting my behavior in the ring that I'm able and willing to do the same outside of it. That willingness, and the brutal self-honesty that must come with it, has been the most pivotal factor in my continued growth as a human being.
Oh, and if nothing else, martial arts are super fun. It's why I get up in the morning!
Both Bessette and Moy are fan favorites, and it is clear that they love the sport, and have been and continue to be part of the growing New England regional scene. Moy’s debut and Bessette’s return will be met by a lot of hometown fans as the fighters' tickets for the stacked Bellator 123 card (see below) on September 5 at Mohegan Sun card (see below) seem to be selling quickly. Tickets can be purchased directly from the fighters at their respective gyms or through Ticketmaster.com.
I would like to thank both gentlemen for taking the time from their busy training camps to talk to MMATorch.com. Here is the fight card as it stands currently:
Featherweight World Title Fight: Patricio Pitbull (21-2) vs. Pat Curran (20-5)
Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: King Mo Lawal (12-4) vs. Tom DeBlass (9-2)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Josh Burns (8-7) vs. Bobby Lashley (10-2)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Lavar Johnson (18-9) vs. Cheick Kongo (21-9-2)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Marvin Maldonado (1-1) vs. Rico Disciullo (2-0)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Steve Garcia (4-0) vs. Kin Moy (4-0)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Mike Wessel (14-7) v s. Josh Diekmann (14-5)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Tamdan McCrory (11-3) vs. Brennan Ward (9-2)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Perry Filkins (8-1) vs. Dan Cramer (10-4)
Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: Mike Mucitelli (6-1) vs. Mark Griffin (3-3-1)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Phillipe Martins (0-1) vs. Pete Rogers Jr. (1-1)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Brandon Fleming (3-2) vs. Blair Tugman (5-5)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Lucas Cruz (7-2) vs. Andrew Calandrelli (6-4)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Scott Cleve (14-4) vs. Matt Bessette (13-5)
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