Bellator light-heavyweight tournament finalist Richard Hale admits he wasn't himself in his semifinal bout with D.J. Linderman follow a tough weight cut. He faces Christian M'Pumbu for the light-heavyweight title this weekend at Bellator 45. Photo by Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
After bursting onto the scene with an inverted triangle choke win against Nik Fekete at Bellator 38, Hale admits he made some "poor choices" heading into his fight with Linderman, mainly having to due with his weight cut.
"I (cut) 19 pounds the day of," Hale said Tuesday on Bloody Elbow Radio. "No excuses by any means, but I definitely learned my lesson and can't make those same mistakes going into a fight with a guy who doesn't have to cut weight in Christian M'Pumbu."
Hale's fight with M'Pumbu this weekend at Bellator 45 is the culmination of Bellator's first light-heavyweight tournament and will crown the company's first 205-pound champion.
Waking up the morning of the weigh-in staring down a 19-pound cut is not easy, to put it lightly. Hale, though, had everything racing through his mind. He knew it was going to be hell, but, in the moment, he said all he could think about was the chain of events that would transpire should he not make weight. He wouldn't fight Linderman, he wouldn't go to the final and he wouldn't become champion.
"No matter what had to happen, I was getting that 19 pounds off," he said.
The weight cut clearly affected his performance in the cage. Two judges had the fight one round apiece heading into the third while the other had Linderman up two rounds. Tired and drawn out heading into the final stanza, Hale pulled it together and was able to mount Linderman off his own takedown attempt and dominated the remainder of the round, winding up with a split decision win.
"That was huge, honestly," Hale said. "I always want to go in there and put on an outstanding performance, but going in, even getting up the steps was a feat. I was definitely not feeling myself, not feeling 100 percent by any means and it was a battle just to get in there. But going into that third round, I was like, 'This is all or nothing.' I fought the first two and just wanted to get my bearings and find out where my conditioning was at because I was getting exhausted just hitting mitts. I was like, 'This isn't who I am.'"
Hale said he played it safe for the first two rounds (an admitted mistake) and says he should've dominated the entire fight like he did the third.
"I don't believe that fight should've went anywhere close to how it did," he said.
Now he gets his chance at personal redemption when he faces M'Pumbu this weekend. M'Pumbu has impressed, winning both of his tournament fights by TKO.
"Out of everybody in the tournament, I respect him the most," Hale said. "The way that he's carried himself seems to be in a respectful manner. ... Aside from that, I know he's well-rounded. We go in with identical records, 17-3-1, and I think it's pretty close how we end our fights and everything else, so I know I'm going to be fighting someone with the same abilities I have, he just walks around as a lighter man."
In the biggest fight of his life, Hale is hoping he and M'Pumbu put on a fight for the ages, one that will be remembered for a long time not only in Bellator, but in the sport as a whole.
"I'm honestly expecting a war," Hale said. "I expect an outstanding fight. It's going to be very tactical and methodical. It's going to be a chess match in my opinion. That's what I look forward to most. The type of fight I look forward to most is that Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar fight. You always look for that one person who's going to give you that outstanding performance to show all of your abilities and who knows, it might be Christian M'Pumbu."