A bus ride to Walmart can tell you a lot about a person, or at least enough to know he’s not a complete jerk.
After a trip to the mega-chain with War Machine, Ron Keslar can’t bring himself to dislike the fighter, whom he faces tonight at Bellator 104.
“He introduced himself, we had some friends in common, and he was a really cool dude,” Keslar told MMAjunkie.com.
Bellator 104 takes place at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The event’s main card, including Keslar (10-3 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) vs. War Machine (14-4 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), airs live on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.
Keslar’s take on his opponent isn’t shared by all, as he’s found that out since being matched with War Machine following a split call over Luis Sergio Teotonio da Fonseca Melo Jr. in the opening round of Bellator’s Season 9 welterweight tournament.
Logging on to Facebook, Keslar has found messages from complete strangers asking him to beat down the man formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver, who returned to Bellator in June after spending two years in jail.
“Everyone is telling me what an a–hole he is and how terrible he is,” Keslar said. “I don’t have a Twitter or whatever.”
If he had an account, Keslar might not be as forgiving. When not training, War Machine is an expert at offending fans on social media. His frequently inappropriate comments, which have gotten him fired from the UFC and created many a PR headache for Bellator, are so frequent that MMA media outlets largely don’t write about them any more.
Not that Keslar has been paying attention. The Strikeforce veteran is more concerned about the pace of his career, which he said has lagged because opponents refuse to fight him. When he made his Bellator debut in September, he felt an uncharacteristic twinge of nerves competing for the first time in 16 months.
“In most cases, I’m taking a year or so off in between because no one will fight me,” he said. “I was nervous about being on TV and having everyone back home watching me. I can’t wait to get back in there.”
And when he steps into the cage, Keslar won’t be thinking about what his opponent does in his spare time.
“None of that matters,” he said. “If I get caught up on anything outside the cage, that means I’m not focused on things inside the cage. So I’m not worried about what he’s typing on his computer, you know?”
With momentum at stake, Keslar said his goal is to stop from being outgrappled by War Machine, whom he calls a better technical wrestler, or being drawn into a slugfest.
“War Machine could come out and start brawling, and I’ll use my footwork, frustrate him and bring him into my world on the mat,” Keslar said. “It’s going to be a long, long night for him. I’ll put him on the mat and pound on him, the entire time if I have to.
“If he tries to take me down? Daniel Cormier is my wrestling coach. And I have eight to 12 NCAA All-Americans that I train with at my gym. I can’t see War Machine dictating where the fight’s gonna go.”
Instead, Keslar imagines his opponent folding from his pressure. That might bring a smile to those with a personal vendetta toward the controversial fighter, but for him, it’s just business.
“I guess having my name on my map is fine, because the more people who know me, the more money I can make,” Keslar said. “If I could make the same amount of money and do the same thing but if no one would know me, I’d do it.
“I’m not in this for a name. I’m in this to provide for my family and now I have the opportunity to make an honest living out of it. That money is going to make me run the extra mile.”
For more on Bellator 104, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
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