Going back a bit, what spawned the idea of coming out with a mixed martial arts tournament format?
Just the essence of true sports competition. I’ve never been a fan of matchmaking. I thought matchmaking was theatrical. Where a guy in a shiny suit sits behind a desk and decides who fights who, for what and when. If it happened in soccer or football, fans would be in an uproar. There would be riots in the streets. In fighting sports, we just accept it. From my own personal opinion, I thought it was something that didn’t make sense. Like, you should just leave that to professional wrestling. That’s why I wanted to create the organization.
Based on the success of March Madness, did you feel that the NCAA Tournament was a benchmark for where you wanted to take Bellator?
Yeah, absolutely. You look at March Madness and the Butlers of the world, everybody loves the fact that each and every team or fighter is given a chance. All that matters is when that cage door shuts behind you, how well do you fight, how good are you. That’s the great equalizer.
What would you say is the best story of the underdog rising to the occasion?
Pat Curran, our featherweight world champion. Perfect example. A kid that was never given a shot, who had an incredible camp behind him, amazing world-class ability and a dedication and focus the likes of which I have never seen before. As a No. 8 seed, he rose above and showed that he could be the best and beat the best. All because he was just given an opportunity.
You’ve mentioned that you are not a fan of matchmaking. Does it bother you to look at what the UFC does and feel that fighters are getting cheated out of title opportunities?
I have a huge amount of respect for what the UFC has accomplished and if it wasn’t for them, we probably wouldn’t be here talking. I’m always hesitant to degrade what they’ve done or what they do. They do it their way. I strongly believe in our way as being a real sports fan. I watch their fights and events, but I don’t think less of their fighters. I just like the way we structure things.
On a completely different note, is your father infamously known for something?
My father is the “Winnebago Man.” He’s as crazy as they come, absolutely out of his mind, I love him but he’s nuts. Yeah, the “Winnebago Man,” that’s my old man.
How does it feel to be associated with such a viral video sensation?
I knew my dad was completely crazy way before anyone else did. I’ve been with him for 46 years. The world ended up learning what I knew long, long ago. He’s a good dude and I talk to him everyday. He’s still alive, kicking and screaming and still using a lot of profanity.
Tonight, Bellator 65 will be taking in Atlantic City. What would you say to someone who's contemplating whether or not they should check this event out?
I would say, come and watch two of the greatest bantamweights in mixed martial arts fight for our world title. Zach Makovsky is our world champion. He's one of the greatest 135-pound fighters on Earth and Eduardo Dantas, who is challenging and won what I believe is one of the most vast bantamweight tournaments in MMA. They're both incredibly talented and explosive fighters. It's rare in life to see two guys in their absolute prime fighting at their very best to compete for a major world title live right in front of you. I could not be more excited.