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‌Capturing Gamebred Bareknuckle Title Could Propel Alan Belcher To The Top Of The Sport‌

‌Alan Belcher looks to win his second bareknuckle heavyweight title Saturday night against Junior Dos Santos.‌
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Alan Belcher has made the most of his second chance in combat sports. After being forced to retire from MMA in 2013 due to an eye injury, the former middleweight resurfaced as a heavyweight competing in bareknuckle and boxing fights. 


The Mississippi native is currently undefeated in bareknuckle and boxing, and on Saturday night he attempts to capture his second bareknuckle heavyweight championship. Belcher faces former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos for Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA’s inaugural heavyweight title in Orlando, Florida. Belcher recently defeated Roy Nelson by split decision, while Dos Santos’ last outing saw him winning a split decision over Fabricio Werdum. Belcher opens up about his rebirth into combat sports to Zenger News. 


Your ascension in bareknuckle was rapid. Did you see this coming? 

Belcher: Not really! I thought about it recently looking back at the last 2 ½ years, it’s right at the 2.5-year mark since I had my first comeback fight. This has been the vision that we had, that we set out for, and it’s all coming together. Here we are. I think it’s a matter of keep going, man. It’s a blast. 


How good does it feel to have Joe Rogan rave about you and your rebirth into the combat world?

Belcher: It’s nice to get that verification from someone you respect. I definitely feel it and it makes me happy. 


Roy Nelson was a more compact opponent, Junior Dos Santos, longer, taller, but is your approach since becoming a heavyweight kind of the same, you will always be the shorter guy that has to close distance? 

Belcher: Absolutely! I am going to be a smaller fighter, so there is a special way that I have developed to fight against bigger guys. It’s just about continuing to do that. Everyone brings a little something different, but one thing that I’m always going to have in the heavyweight division is speed and movement. Luckily, I have the power to hurt heavyweights too, so it’s worked out pretty well for me, so I’m going to keep doing it. 


Do you study bareknuckle opponents in a similar manner that you studied MMA opponents? 

Belcher: It’s pretty much the same. I do take into consideration how my opponent reacts to the bare knuckles. All in all, studying in general is observing and finding out what’s going on. So, I look into every aspect as possible. I really got into studying my opponents a lot harder during the later years of my career, and I feel that’s one of the reasons that has led to my championship status. 


We thought it was wild to see you fight Roy Nelson, did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would be fighting Junior Dos Santos? 

Belcher: I never thought I would be fighting Roy Nelson or Junior Dos Santos. There was a fantasy fight moment early on in my career when I was young, and I met Junior Dos Santos. We were in the UFC, and I was a middleweight. We were checking in and Duke Roufus made the comment, “Man, he’s not that much bigger than you are. He’s got a little bit of height on you, but when you’re walking around at 220, he might have 10 pounds on you.” Duke Roufus was always dropping little hints for me to move up to light heavyweight or heavyweight. He didn’t like me cutting weight. 


Junior is expecting a standup fight. Are you expecting the same thing? 

Belcher: It’s going to be a standup competition. Both of us have grappling. Junior hasn’t shown it a lot except for defensively. I’m kind of the same. I probably have a few more attacks. The Roy Nelson fight was my test of getting back into MMA and kind of a warmup fight to get back into MMA. It’s an MMA fight so you don’t know what will make sense at the time. He may try to sneak a takedown in, or I may go for a takedown.

Who knows what could happen, but I think for both of us, our best skills are striking, using our athleticism, and our speed. Trying to time the other person and catch them. That’s what makes this fight so exciting. Both of us have that knockout power, just like the Roy fight. Each guy can get dropped at any time, but this one is a little bit higher level of skill, sweetness, and skills, which makes it very interesting. The fans are in for something that they have been waiting for a long time. Two heavyweights that can move, that have the skills, while possessing knockout power. It’s going to be an excellent match. 


Not only do you have the opportunity to capture the inaugural title, but you have a chance to put another high-level name on your resume in the win column. What does that mean to you? 

Belcher: It’s a big feat to beat a legend like Junior Dos Santos. You can look at it a lot of ways, my biggest fight, my biggest pay day, and it breaks me into the A-list of top superstars out there in this sport. It really is a big thing, but I try not to put a lot of meaning on anything that can distract me from actually winning. I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose, so my focus is on what I need to do to beat Junior is priority for me at the moment. Afterwards, we will see how it goes. It’s exciting to think about it for a moment, but I like to keep myself grounded. We are focused on beating Junior in a certain way, and that’s where my mind is. 


Your career was over. You had injuries that seemed impossible to come back from, you retired from combat sports. What message would you give for anyone that is in the position you were once in and thinking about giving up? 

Belcher: Sometimes it is important to take some time, take a step back, and get out of the environment that you’re in. Find yourself and change some things. Don’t stay down too long. I switched gears and it took me away from the sport longer than I needed to be, but that’s part of the process. You hit these roadblocks that slow you down, eye surgery, or losses at the top-level, these are just challenges.

Everyone’s situation is different, but these challenges can be what you need to grow to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. I wouldn’t be the fighter that I am now if I didn’t have those struggles and have to work through those. There’s no easy road to greatness. The more you can embrace that and learn how to do the hard things, if you can smile and make it through that, the reward is on the other side. 

(Additional reporting provided by Miriam Onyango)

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