Zach Makovsky is one of the top bantamweight fighters in the world, yet to most fans he's completely unknown. This is because he's not fighting in the UFC and never spent time in the WEC. Instead, Makovsky cut his teeth in the Bellator bantamweight tournament. I had a chance to speak with Makovsky about being a Bellator fighter and if he ever feels slighted because he hasn't spent time in a Zuffa run organization. He also gave me his thoughts on the current bantamweight field and who really impressed him in the first round of the tournament. He's an exciting fighter and a name that people should definitely become familiar with as he possesses the skill set to be a force in the division for years to come.
Recently there have been a string of Bellator fighters that have been outspoke on the amount of press coverage their fights received compared to the UFC. Bellator heavyweight Neil Grove went as far as publicly tweeting about Bloody Elbow's coverage of his promotion. I asked Makovsky if this was a common feeling on the Bellator roster, the "Us Vs. Them" attitude. He was pretty straight forward in his response saying, "I don't know. I try not to get caught up in any of that. It kind of is what it is. The UFC is by far the biggest name in the game. I would think to most casual fans, they don't know the sport is called Mixed Martial Arts. To them, the sport is Ultimate Fighting. It's frustrating from that kind of stand point. But at the same time you appreciate what the UFC is doing and they're obviously doing good things for their business."
He added, regarding the UFC's policy of treating fighters outside the organization as ones not to regard, "At times it takes away from other organizations, we also wouldn't be in the spot we're in now without what they've done for Mixed Martial Arts. I don't know what to say, they have the majority of the best fighters in the world and I don't think anybody argues that. But just because they have that doesn't mean there's not anyone else outside of the UFC, which I think they tend to neglect. They have the majority of the best fighters so I understand why they don't give us coverage."
Unlike many American bantamweights, Makovsky never fought in the WEC. Compared to his contemporaries, he's a relative unknown to most fight fans and because he doesn't have a WEC fight on his record, he's not regarded as a top fighter. He was honest about this, telling me, "I think it's just a matter of exposure, you know? Before I got into the Bellator tournament, I hadn't really fought on any big stages. I was never in a televised bout. I fought in EliteXC on the undercard and I fought over in Tokyo in DEEP, but I was never exposed to a large population of fans until I was on TV. And even now, it's still a much smaller amount of people than what the UFC would have on Spike or pay per view, but it's slowly growing and slowly getting more exposure and I thank Bellator for that opportunity."
"I mean, of course if I fought in the WEC earlier I would have had that exposure so people would know me better but I kind of really started building my name in Bellator. I kind of was under the radar until I got in the tournament and ended up winning it. There's not much else I could have done otherwise. I don't think the WEC would have had me in there before I created a name in Bellator which is a good thing about Bellator. They give you the opportunity to get into a tournament where you're not being matched up with a certain fighter here or there. You're in a tournament and you have a chance to win it, it's kind of cool that way."
He also spoke about the current field of bantamweight compettitors and who impressed him the most out of the semi-finalists in this year's bantamweight tournament. "There was a lot that went on there. Some I expected and a couple things I didn't. I thought Galvao and Beebe would be a close fight like it was. I thought it would be a split decision for one of them. Galvao came out on top. Ed West looked pretty good and did what he does well. He's a tall guy for that weight and used his height and high volume of kicks to control the stand up which I thought he would do and he did it well. I was impressed with Dantes really. For how young he is, he's really composed. He doesn't do anything really fancy, he does a lot of basic stuff but it's all sharp. He has a good ground game and a good striking game."
"And obviously Villa knocking out Warren, I think Warren kind of came in with a strategy where he wanted to strike with Villa. Villa's clearly got some power in his hands and when he plants and throws, you don't want to get hit by that. Joe got caught doing what he's done in the past with the reaching with his hands away from his head and not protecting himself and got caught with that big punch. He should have tried to wear him down or push him against the cage and wear him out a little bit before trying to really strike with him. I think I match up pretty well with them, Villa would probably be an interesting fight for me. I'm really interested to fight other wrestlers because I come from that background. So for someone on paper who is a much better wrestler than me, an Olympic bronze medalist, it would be a real test for me to see how well rounded I've become and a good way to challenge myself."