Just underneath the surface, it’s obvious that Vinicius Queiroz is still bitter about his most recent defeat. But on the outside, he insists he’s put it behind. After all, there’s new business at hand.
“I’m happy for Alexander Volkov,” Queiroz told MMAjunkie.com in his native Portuguese. “He’s a great champion with a great fight record. But anyone who saw us fight knows that I was nullifying his game. No one else in Bellator fought him as well as I did.”
Queiroz (6-3 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Bellator MMA heavyweight champ Volkov (19-3 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) met in the semifinals of the company’s Season 7 heavyweight tournament. While grappling specialist Queiroz stymied knockout artist Volkov in the early going, a controversial second-round referee restart gave the Russian the opening he needed to land heavy leather and end the fight.
“I think I was doing well at first, keeping a good distance,” Queiroz said. “But the referee interfered by standing us up too quickly after I took Volkov down. Many fans and even the Bellator officials saw this. That standup was a determining factor in our fight, but it’s water under the bridge now. Now my goal is to win this tourney and face him again. I’ll be even more prepared for his standup, and he’ll be more prepared for my ground game, so it will be a different fight altogether.”
Volkov would go on to defeat Richard Hale and claim Bellator’s vacant heavyweight belt. Queiroz now looks to earn his way to the rematch with a win in the company’s Season 9 heavyweight bracket. Up first is another hard-hitter, Lavar Johnson (17-7 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), at Friday’s Bellator 102 event at California’s Visalia Convention Center. The fight is part of the evening’s Spike TV-televised main card and follows prelims that stream on Spike.com.
“I think Lavar is a very experienced athlete, coming to Bellator from the UFC,” Queiroz said. “It’s a pleasure to welcome him to Bellator. He does have heavy hands and fights aggressively. I’ve fought muay Thai my entire life, so I’m more than ready to trade on the feet with him. I also feel my jiu-jitsu is an advantage over him. It may be a good path to win this fight. But I’m ready on the feet or on the ground, and undeniably he is very tough standing.”
The fight will certainly have an old-school feel. Both fighters’ path to victory seems clear. Johnson’s heavy hands have felled 15 former foes, but his undoing has often proved to be on the ground, where Queiroz will hold a significant edge. The winner moves on to face the victor in the night’s other semifinal bout with Mark Godbeer vs. Cheick Kongo.
A tournament win brings with it a shot at the promotion’s heavyweight belt, which is Queiroz’s ultimate goal. Should that mean a rematch with Volkov, as well, then all the sweeter.
“It’s just one fight at a time for me,” Queiroz said. “Of course I want a rematch with Volkov, but first I need to win this grand prix. Then I’ll face whoever happens to be holding the belt. That’s my focus.”
For more on Bellator 102, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.