HOUSTON — Bellator interim bantamweight champion Raufeon Stots is loud and confident.
Currently on a 10-game winning streak, his only loss in 2017, Stots feels mentally and physically on top. This creates problems for opponents.
Danny Sabatello appears to have punched his ticket to face Stots after Sabatello unanimously defeated Leandro Higo at Bellator 282 on June 24. A heated exchange between Stots and Sabatello during the post-fight interview set the stage for a showdown later this year.
Stots recently spoke strategy with Zenger News and how he plans to beat Sabatello.
Zenger: We know how great you are in the cage, but you also seemed pretty comfortable commentating on Friday night’s Bellator card.
Stots: The commentary was great. It was very fun. I had a blast.
Zenger: You were in the cage analyzing potential opponents. Have you been called upon to scout or comment from a fan perspective?
Stots: That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Come see it up close. I wanted to feel the pressure of the moment and see what they could create. It was huge. It’s definitely different from being at home watching. I could feel what was going on inside the cage – or lack thereof – in terms of fighting Danny Sabatello. It was fun.
Zenger: In another interview you said that since COVID you have suppressed self-doubt. Was the self-doubt mental or something you changed in training?
Stots: We couldn’t really train during COVID, where I could rely on my coaches to teach me things. So I started learning things on my own. Then I started to dive into the mental part of being an athlete – and a successful person. This was one of the affirmations I decided to create. This affirmation is that I am confident and fearless in everything I do. I dominate, excite and end fights. I am Raufeon Stots, the Bellator World Champion. I know this is who I am now. I embody that, and I’m not a dubious person in anything I do.
Zenger: Since Juan Archuleta was eliminated, do you feel compelled to surpass or repeat this performance?
Stots: The key for me is to focus on the moment. I can’t really worry about being better than I was last time, or what I have to do in the future. Good things happen when I’m in the moment. I feel like the one time I lost, I was too busy waiting for what was going to happen after I got the win, instead of focusing on what was happening right in front of my face. In fights, things can change in a second, so I definitely have to be there.
Zenger: Your only loss came in 2017. You’ve won 10 straight fights since then. What is the key to this winning streak?
Stots: This fight taught me something, something that was missing in my game. It was on the mental side. It wasn’t really in my training. I have the best coaches and the best training regimen. I learned from the best in the game. It was a mental thing and now my mind is connected. That, coupled with my growing confidence and skills, I feel unbeatable right now. It is a testament to what has happened in my life over the past five to seven years.
Zenger: You seem to understand the entertainment aspect of combat. How important is that in today’s climate, where self-promotion is key?
Stots: The talking part is really fun for me. Talking stuff is just extra. It’s my personality. That’s how I grew up. It’s my hobby. I love playing Fortnite and talking trash to my friends. I understand that none of this works unless you confirm what you say. You have to go out there and perform well. I’m connected to MMA and sports, so no matter what I say or do, I get better at my sport.
There are so many things you can get good at in MMA, so every day I do something to get better at my craft. I’m really good at fighting; conversation is just fun for me.
Zenger: How does a fight between you and Danny Sabatello go?
Stots: We are both good wrestlers. Unfortunately, he has no wrestling skills. I have a feeling that if our fight comes to an end, it’s going to be a long night for him. If he decides to hire me somewhere other than wrestling, the skill gap is too great. I said it before I fought him, I supported him. But I didn’t know if he could make it because of his skills.
It’s so one dimensional, but luckily he was able to fight people who don’t have good wrestling. I’ve fought a lot of wrestlers, I’ve fought myself, so I have a lot of those skills. I don’t think he poses a threat anywhere. Even if he knocks me down, there’s no way he can hold me. It’s going to be a long night or a very short night in my favor. I don’t see where it’s better. Maybe if he had finishing abilities I would think he can catch me with something, but I don’t see that. I don’t see the power in his hands, I don’t see the threat of submission, it’s just wrestling. My last opponent thought that would be the way to beat me.
Hopefully he comes up with something in the next few months. I just don’t see a path to victory for him.
Zenger: You have this one million dollar prize in mind. To win it you obviously have to win a few more fights, but the ultimate test would be against your friend, Sergio Pettis. Not looking too far ahead, but have you thought about having to put the staff aside and handle business with Pettis?
Stots: I try not to think about it. To fight Sergio…I feel like he would be my toughest opponent. People don’t realize the work he’s done to be a complete fighter. Our styles are similar. Our striking ideologies are similar. We know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. A fight with him will be the ultimate chess match, the ultimate physical match, and it’s going to be very violent. It will be an exhausting fight. The best man will win, but it will be a grueling fight.
Zenger: Final thoughts for Danny Sabatello?
Stots: Sabatello sucks! The hardest part of this fight is going to be breaking down footage of him, because I fall asleep every time I watch him fight.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.