Re-invention and resurgence are terms used in mixed martial arts when a fighter is looking to get a fresh start or is battling his way back to something he once had. Neither amount to much unless victory is found inside the cage and former WEC champion "Razor" Rob McCullough is in the midst of showcasing both as he prepares to head into his Bellator debut against Patricky Freire at Bellator 36. McCullough bounced back from a disappointing decision loss in his final WEC appearance to earn back to back wins at the Tachi Palace. When the opportunity arose for McCullough to sign with Bellator he saw the perfect format for re-introduction. I caught up with "Razor" Rob on the eve of his Bellator debut and in his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview shared his thoughts on his new home.
"I think any competitive fighter wants to say he's the best and Bellator has the platform to show and prove it," McCullough began. "You fight, win the tournament and then you fight then you fight the champion. That is true champion style status. I also have a family and I have kids to feed now and that definitely creates motivation."
One of the big announcements Bellator made this year was their switch to MTV2 and the increased exposure that comes from the network has certainly been a major appeal to fighters. The new network promises to take the Chicago based promotion to the next level of fan recognition and that has MMA veterans like McCullough ready to get started.
"I think it's a great media platform," McCullough stated. "Lots of people will watch the show and I'm excited and honored. I'm pumped and can't wait for the fans to see the new "Razor" Rob 2.0."
For his official Bellator debut "Razor" drew aggressive Brazilian Patricky Freire. McCullough made his name in MMA in classic striker vs. striker matchups where his powerful Muay Thai and pressure overwhelmed many opponents and he doesn't plan on Freire sticking round too long on Saturday night.
"I think it makes for great matchup, specifically for my style," McCullough answered when asked about Freire. "He comes to fight and so do I. He's going to come forward and that's what I do so there is going to be a battle to see who can control the center of the cage. I plan on making it short and quick."
McCullough continued, "A fight is a fight and anything can happen but I'm prepared to finish this fight anywhere it goes. He trains with jiu-jitsu black belts and I train with a lot of high level Jiu-Jitsu guys so there isn't anything he's going to throw at me that I haven't seen before."
While both fighter's strengths like in the stand-up portion of their skill sets, one aspect that McCullough will definitely have the advantage is in experience. A veteran over 30 fights, "Razor" Rob's cage time triples that of his Brazilian counterpart.
"My mindset for this fight and this training camp is on point and my skill level and experience could definitely play a factor if it goes to later rounds, McCullough said. "I don't plan on that happening. The key for me will be range and by keeping him in range I can land some big punches and kicks. If he wants to take the fight to the ground I'll finish it there."
If all goes to plan, McCullough will battle his way through and eventually win the Bellator lightweight tournament which will earn him a shot against current champion Eddie Alvarez (currently ranked #4 in the world). Alvarez has been a wrecking machine since coming to Bellator and having a top ranked fighter waiting at the end of the road can only be added motivation.
"It's definitely something that I've thought about," McCullough answered when asked about Eddie Alvarez. "When you look at an organization you look at their champions. He [Alvarez] is the champion for a reason and he's a great competitor and fighter. Alvarez is very well rounded and if you fight for a living you want to fight the best. If you want to show people you are the best that's the mind set you have to have in the fight game."
As a former WEC champion McCullough has assisted in carrying the flag for lighter weight fighters as they have battled for both attention and respect. In a sport that has been primarily dominated by the larger fighters at heavyweight and light heavyweight, competitors at 155 lb. and south are finally getting not only exposure but a chance to earn a living in combat sports.
"I'm really excited because I have a lot of friends and training partners who are great fighters but they just never had anywhere to go," McCullough stated. "There wasn't a platform in mixed martial arts and now that there is it has opened another whole different world. Before we had guys who were 125 lb. or 135 lb. and were really good but they had nowhere to go except maybe fighting at local shows. Now they can fight for big money at the big shows but more importantly they can make a career in fighting. I've had new motivation in my training partners and in the guys at my gym who are excited to have the chance. It's cool...I'm excited and glad that the sport is growing so much."
With the interview coming to a close "Razor" Rob wanted to send a final message out to MMA fans and in doing so...made his intentions known for Patricky Freire.
"Tune in Saturday night on MTV2 and watch me smash this kid."