Rich “Rare Breed” Hale (21-4, 1 draw, MMA) is one week away from battling it out against Alexander “Drago” Volkov (18-3, MMA) to become something that he already believes he is, a champion. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has said a new heavyweight champion will be be determined at Bellator 84 next Saturday, Dec 14th in Hammond, Indiana.
Since former Bellator Heavyweight Champion Cole Konrad retired this year, the heavyweight title has been vacated. Therefore, the winner of Hale vs Volkov will not only be the tournament champion, but they’ll also become the division’s new champion.
To get to the tournament finals, Hale took out Mike Wessel in the quarterfinals in 79 seconds of the first round. Then, he TKO’d Thiago Santos in the semi-finals, knocking his teeth out during his beastly onslaught before finishing him at 3:31 of round one.
Volkov’s path was a little different. First, he faced Brett Rogers who was simply outmatched against Volkov. However, the 24-year-old out of Rusfighters Sports Club in Russia, couldn’t put him away. Still, he earned the decision in his favor. In the semi-finals, he put away Vinicius Queiroz via TKO in the first round at 4:59.
Despite the fact that Volkov is on a nine fight win streak, “Rare Breed” told MMA Fight Corner that he’s seen plenty of weaknesses in his game that he’s going to attack come Saturday.
“You could see that he has a huge hole in his ground game, but I think that he definitely has some holes in his stand up that I’m going to exploit. I mean, you can’t stand up from the stand up and I’m looking to put it on him there and then show why I deserve to be the heavyweight champion for Bellator, definitely,” Hale said. “So, I mean the big thing for me is go out there, and finally have the opportunity fighting a guy taller than myself, but yet he doesn’t have much of a reach advantage – half an inch at that – go out there and put the numbers on him. The big thing with him is I don’t think he packs a lot of power in his punches and so that’s going to be one of the definite things I have over him.”
Even though Hale’s going into his third fight in three months, he said his body doesn’t feel any lingering effects of the wars he’s been through along the way.
“I’ve been training my ass off. I’ve been training really hard. I’m very confident in my abilities,” Hale said. “You’re going through training camp, you’re never going to be 100% per se of your normal walk around when you don’t have a fight. To me, I do feel, I feel 110% to be honest with you coming into to this one.”
One thing that Hale fully plans on using to his advantage are his heavy hands that got him into the finals. With his size and power, Hale plans on putting the pressure on Volkov. By the sound of it, Hale has no intention of going the distance. He intends to lay out the 6’7″ “Drago”.
“I think I definitely have the power, obviously, to put down. The big thing is putting down the guys that are cutting down to 265, I’m able to hit them on their chin and knock the teeth out of their mouth, and you know, things like that. I think I’ve displayed my power perfectly well, especially in the last fight and in the fight prior to that against Wessel, both bigger guys that cut down to 265. I don’t think any of the other guys that Volkov has fought have really tested his chin, I don’t even think they’ve really even hit it,” Rich stated.
On September 12, 2012, Konrad announced his retirement from MMA and vacated the heavyweight championship. Since Hale previously fought at 205 with Bellator and only made the jump up to heavyweight this season, he never got to face Konrad. Hale said just because he isn’t facing Konrad for the title that would make winning it bittersweet by any means.
“He made the decision as a champion to make the best decision for himself, his family, his life, and he retired – that’s what retirement is. It’s giving an opportunity for the next guy to come up and become a champion. To me, there is no doubt, there is no hesitation and this is prior to even getting a belt. I know everyday when I wake up that I’m a champion, a belt just means I am for that organization and it’s displayed for the rest of the world to see and everything else. Would I loved to have fought the guy that had initially got the belt in the inaugural tournament to get it and everything else? Absolutely. But do I feel any less of myself? Or any less of a champion because he chose to retire? No.”
Confidence is not an issue for Hale who’s also won four in a row. What Rich Hale is ready to unleash on Volkov when the heavyweight tournament final goes down sounds unrelenting. And, even if no one else does, he already envisions himself as victorious.
“I know what I am. I know what I have to bring to the table. It’s just a matter of time until I get to show the world why I am going to down as a legend. There’s few guys out there in the world that have true belief in themselves and what they can do and that’s one of the gifts that I was definitely born with, it’s not something you can teach somebody or anything like that…In that aspect I’m thankful for what I was given and I’m just trying to make the best of it. Hence the name “Rare Breed”.
Rich Hale vs Alexander Volkov is expected to be the main event of Bellator 84. The broadcast will air on MTV 2, check your local listings for start times.