Having won nine fights heading into this past February’s match-up with Mikhail Zayats in the second round of Bellator’s light-heavyweight tournament, Jacob Noe was riding high, maybe too high for his own good.
Following a first-round submission loss to Zayats, Noe decided it was time to leave his native Tennessee and make the kind of move necessary to take his career to the next level.
“I think I underestimated the guy,” said Noe of his loss to Zayats. “I just went in there without a game plan and tried to fight him and I think it backfired. He had a really good game plan and coaching. I kind of learned my lesson from that.
“In Memphis I was kind of the only full-time fighter and didn’t have consistent training partners or experience to work with, so I made the change to Team Syndicate in Las Vegas.”
Noe felt the change was a long time coming and the Zayats fight only helped crystalize the need to shake things up.
“I always knew that beforehand I wasn’t growing as a fighter and I felt like I needed to make a change,” he said. “After the fight with Mikhail, it opened everyone’s eyes and we figured I had outgrown the place (where I was) and I’m glad they accepted that I needed to make the change.”
With a new camp behind him, Noe is looking to rebound Wednesday in Thackerville, Okla., against Renato “Babalu” Sobral as part of a shortened four-man Bellator light-heavyweight tournament.
“If I keep the pressure on him, I think he’ll wither away,” said Noe of Sobral. “I’m in really good shape right now and have a little bit of altitude training and have been learning from better guys, so he’ll definitely run across the best Jacob Noe.
“I feel like when I feel like this and I’m confident, I’m difficult for anyone to deal with.”
Having alternated wins and losses in his last six bouts and being a big name signing to Bellator, it’d be understandable if all the pressure to win on Wednesday evening was Sobral’s to deal with, but according to Noe, he’s got just as much pressure on him to perform as well.
“In a way, I kind of feel the pressure is on both of us,” Noe told MMAWeekly.com. “I know I have pressure on me also because this is the fight that’s going to show the world who I am. Babalu does have a name, and he probably feels pressure to bounce back, so the pressure on both of us.
“(Winning this fight is) all about who put the work in and who wants it the most.”