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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Saturday's Spike broadcast for Bellator MMA and Glory's joint "Dynamite 1" program has been sold on the unique "three-tiered approach" to building a card, but there's another fight on the televised broadcast which has been getting a bit under-looked.
Longtime MMA veterans Josh Thomson and Mike Bronzoulis will square off on the card, both hoping to establish themselves as potentially viable contenders in the organization's lightweight division. Though Thomson's entering out of a public exit from the UFC and as the favorite in this fight, Bronzoulis believes it's his time, and is thrilled for the opportunity to elevate himself at "The Punk's" expense.
"I can't stop smiling, I can't stop thinking about it, this is going to be extremely fun," Bronzoulis told MMATorch recently about taking part in what may be Bellator's most high-profile event to date. "Everyone's going to know who I am after this fight... I've been waiting my whole life for this opportunity.
"This is the craziest, most awesome thing that's ever happened to me in my life."
It's not been an easy road to this spot for either fighter. Thomson went on a downslide in his final three UFC bouts, losing to Benson Henderson, Bobby Green, and Tony Ferguson, while Bronzoulis has spent the last couple of years in Legacy FC. This will be his second appearance in a Bellator cage, having fought just once before in the finals of the short-lived "Fight Master" reality series.
Bronzoulis dropped a decision to Joe Riggs to finish that season, and neither of them would compete in Bellator again. Riggs moved on to the UFC, while Bronzoulis says he bought his way out of his Bellator deal due to issues with then-President Bjorn Rebney.
"No one seems to know that I had bought my way out," Bronzoulis commented. "I did not want to be a part of it anymore. I asked to buy out and I bought out. Bjorn [Rebney] made me buy out for $5,000 and I did. Nobody knew about that; I didn't like my relationship with him, and I didn't like the whole experience with Riggs and the things that went down. I felt betrayed, and I just didn't want anything to do with it at that time. I just kind of wanted to go my own way and do my own thing."
Doing his own thing has been a long-running trait for "The Greek." The Houston, Texas native has been competing nearly as long as Thomson, and holds a nearly identical record coming in as well. However, where Thomson competed in high profile fights in promotions like Strikeforce and the UFC, Bronzoulis hopped around numerous organizations and fought in a couple of different weight classes.
Still, Bronzoulis finds no intimidation from Thomson's overall level of competition, and he believes he's got no pressure on himself as the underdog opponent on Saturday night.
"They're all just labels," Bronzoulis said of the stages on which they've both respectively fought. "You can't look at all that, otherwise you mentally defeat yourself 'oh, he's done this, he's done that.' To me, he's just a human being. He's done things that other people have not that I definitely want to do. I kind of feel like it's my time. There's no pressure on me; he's the one fighting in front of his home town, he's the one coming off three losses, all the pressure's on him. I feel extremely excited about this opportunity, and I'm going to take full advantage of it."
Bronzoulis thinks he's a stronger fighter at lightweight than he's been at welterweight, and indeed says he feels "invincible" at 155 lbs. On top of that, he suspects Thomson's on his way out as it is, and whether he knows it or not will be confronted with that on Saturday night.
"I think he wants out," Bronzoulis said of Thomson. "I think he's looking for another paycheck and a good fight, and he picked the wrong guy to take the fight against... I'm coming there to win, and I'm going to beat him.
"He strikes, I strike. He can wrestle, I'm a great counter-wrestler. I'm going to be grinding the whole time and I think that's the key to success in this fight," he continued. "I'm not going to let him stall – not saying that he is, I'm saying I'm not going to let him. If he tries to take me down and hold me, he's going to have a hard time getting me down, and if he does get me down by some chance I'm going to be able to pop right back up. It's not a problem. I'm going to take it to him just like he takes it to people. Someone's gonna drop, it's gonna be fun. I've got a chin of granite, and it looks like he does too, so it makes for one hell of a fight. This fight, I don't see how it could be boring, there's no way it's going to be boring.
"This is going to be a great fight, and it's going to come down to who wants it more, and I know I do."
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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