Ricco Rodriguez will return to the Mohegan Sun, where he won the UFC heavyweight title. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Ricco Rodriguez struggled to find work with prominent mixed martial arts organizations for a number of years, until he signed with Bellator Fighting Championships in February.

Rodriguez (47-11) will meet Seth Petruzelli at Bellator 48 on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., site of the most significant victory of his career -- his September 2002 triumph over Randy Couture, which netted him the UFC heavyweight crown. Rodriguez believes he has found a place where he can finish out his career while competing against some of the top heavyweights in the world.

“Taking this opportunity to fight with Bellator is really my final calling,” he told Sherdog.com. “I don’t plan on going anywhere else. I plan to compete in the heavyweight tournament, see how I match up with the heavyweights, really push myself to be a champion and finish my career here.”

While searching for a new professional home, Rodriguez grew tired of the unprofessional methods utilized by certain smaller promotions with which he had dealt. He has not competed in back-to-back bouts within the same promotion in more than three years, as he bounced from one regional stage to the next.

“When you’re working for a smaller organization, you’re almost taking a chance in a circus act,” Rodriguez said. “It is awesome to work for an organization that treats you with class and respect.”

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney was admittedly hesitant to sign the heavyweight, who has had issues with substance abuse in the past. Historically, Bellator has not gone out of its way to sign UFC washouts and former champions, and Rodriguez was no exception.

“A lot of people don’t understand the politics,” Rodriguez said. “Bellator is looking for their own champions. They aren’t looking for former champions. They are not the company that’s taking the leftovers from the UFC and making them their champions. They are producing guys that are in the Top 10 rankings.”

Rodriguez believes Bellator provides a unique platform through which to showcase his talents. The opportunity to compete on national television via MTV2 intrigues the 33-year-old, along with the way Bellator raises and grooms its own fighters.

“They have a different formula. They are coming at their demographics in a totally different way, and they are finding their own athletes,” Rodriguez said. “Look at [Bellator welterweight champion and 2008 Olympian] Ben Askren; you think that these guys couldn’t compete in the UFC? I’m happy with Bellator. I believe they care more about the fighters.”

On a 12-fight winning streak, the longest such streak of his career, Rodriguez will lock horns with Petruzelli in his promotional debut. He has designs on competing in the next Bellator heavyweight tournament, a victory in which would lead to a crack at champion Cole Konrad.

“I’ve been wanting to fight better opponents,” Rodriguez said. “Seth is very unorthodox, and he’s very elusive. He is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Everybody thinks I should win, but a fight is a fight. Anyone can get knocked out at any time. It’s just a great opportunity to come back to [the] Mohegan Sun, where I won my UFC heavyweight title, and show people I belong in Bellator.”

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Derek Anderson injured, Patricky 'Pitbull' Freire meets Ryan Couture at Bellator 148

  • 28 days ago
  • 5 views

An injury to Derek Anderson has forced him off Bellator 148’s main card and Patricky Freire will step in to face Ryan Couture at the Jan. 29 event.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Four preliminary-card bouts added to Bellator 148 in Fresno, Calif.

  • 28 days ago
  • 4 views

Bellator’s card in Fresno, Calif., later this month may have undergone a change at the top recently, but its prelims today continued to grow.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie Rankings, Jan. 12: Who's the world's best bantamweight?

  • 27 days ago
  • 7 views

Who’s the best bantamweight fighter on the planet? We’ll find out shortly with Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 81 title headliner.Filed under: Bellator, MMA Rankings, News, UFC, WSOF read news >>

Fans invited to next month's Bellator Fan Fest with Angle, Ortiz, Couture, more

  • 25 days ago
  • 4 views

Bellator heads to Houston for next month’s “tentpole event.” Beforehand, fans can get up close and personal with some MMA legends.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Brian Rogers vs. Alessio Sakara set for Bellator 152 in Italy

  • 25 days ago
  • 13 views

Bellator’s debut event in Italy has its first fight, and it features some familiar names.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Vinicius Queiroz in for injured Augusto Sakai against Cheick Kongo at Bellator 150

  • 24 days ago
  • 4 views

Cheick Kongo has a new heavyweight opponent at Bellator 150 as Augusto Sakai after an injury forced him from the card.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Several Fighters Revealed for Bellator and Oktagon Co-Promotion in Italy

  • 24 days ago
  • 5 views

New details were revealed this afternoon regarding the co-promotion between Bellator MMA and Oktagon Kickboxing. The partnership is set to take place on April 16 in Italy. read news >>

Ex-UFC champ Jose Aldo: 'I won’t accept another fight unless it’s for the belt'

  • 24 days ago
  • 88 views

Ex-UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is again defending his approach in a loss to now-champ Conor McGregor and said he’s waiting for a title shot for his next bout.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC read news >>

Dana White’s UFC Boston Wrap-Up: We’ve Got to Find Out if Cruz is Healthy

  • 22 days ago
  • 86 views

UFC president Dana White recaps Sunday night's UFC Fight Night 81 in Boston and talks about the resiliency of Dominick Cruz. read news >>

Ex-UFC champ Anthony Pettis apologizes for Alvarez loss, asks for 'real fight ASAP'

  • 22 days ago
  • 366 views

Anthony Pettis is learning the hard way that while it was difficult to climb to the top of the UFC lightweight division, it can be even more difficult to stay there.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC read news >>