Former Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky is making his flyweight debut this weekend at CFFC 24, against BE scouting report prospect Claudio Ledesma. Ledesma is a Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighter who most recently competed in Bellator amassing a 3–1 record with the promotion.
For Makovsky, this is his first fight outside the promotion following a two fight skid; the loss of his title to Eduardo Dantas back in April of 2012, and a split decision loss to Anthony Leone in December. Makvosky sat down to talk with me about his hopes for the future at 125 lbs. and about the gritty details of his contract problems with Bellator.
Alright, I probably won't go out of my way to point this out again, but since I've transcribed a number of interviews that others have conducted, I will start this one by saying that this is entirely my own work. All questions, opinions, and transcriptions are my own or Makovsky's. Now, moving right along.
So, it's fight week how are you doing?
Good, everything's going well. Excited for this weekend obviously.
Yeah? You're not having any trouble with the weight cut? This is your first time going down to 125, right?
Ummm... I wasn't going to... I'm not going to lie, I'm a little nervous about it. But, it seems to be going good. I'm within 10 pounds and still... I've been eating well and I'm still hydrated. It's going good so far, I guess. I won't know for sure until Friday, but I think I'll be alright.
So you're fighting Claudio Ledesma. It's his flyweight debut as well, but that's a pretty tough fight for your flyweight debut.
I wouldn't want it any other way. I was actually offered a fight in a different promotion against what, on paper, was an easier fight, but there's no easy fights. I want to fight guys who are tough and have good credentials so I can prove to myself and everyone that I belong with the best flyweights out there, and I believe I do.
You guys have both fought Anthony Leone to split decisions. Have you looked at Claudio's fight against him at all?
Yeah I did watch that fight. I think Claudio, he's pretty good at everything. He doesn't have any kind of glaring weakness, but at the same side there's nothing I see that I'm extremely worried about either. I think he's pretty well rounded, but at the same time I think I'm a little bit better in every area. I'm not worried, but Leone fought us in a very similar way. He controlled the pace, he controlled the center, he likes to walk forward and keep the pressure on. I thought I had a speed advantage so I wanted to use that movement and counter with some counter strikes and takedowns and stuff. I was able to take him down, but I wasn't able to control him. But Claudio had a close fight with him too, I honestly thought that Leone won every round against Claudio, even though it did turn out to be a split decision. Styles make fights, you can never judge based on that. I don't know what else to say.
Ledesma's a Renzo Gracie fighter. Are you worried more about keeping the fight standing, or are you really looking at him as a fighter that's more well rounded rather than Jiu Jitsu centered?
I'm trying to keep the focus on everything. I think he's going to be a little bit taller and rangier, so he's got... I think he'll try to use that to his advantage. I think if he gets a chance he'll try to take me down too. I agree, I think his Jiu Jitsu is probably his strongest point, but he can definitely do everything. He can wrestle and he can strike a little bit. You have to be prepared for everything and I constantly do that. I really feel, like I said before, that I'm better at everything. I'm really prepared to win the fight wherever it happens. I think it's going to be a fight that's mixed up. There's going to be standup, I think there's going to be groundwork, so get ready for everything.
You kind of hit a rough patch with your last two fights. Have you made any changes with your training or camp, or was the drop in weight class the big focus?
I think there's been a bunch of different changes. I mean, the weight class for sure, and it wasn't just because of my last two losses. That's definitely a part of it, but I think my last three fights, really, I fought three guys who walk around over 165 and I walk around like 142, 143. I think it's just a matter of the sport evolving, everyone getting better and more scientific at weight cutting. You have to be honest. If you want to compete at the highest levels you kinda have to evolve with the sport or you're gonna be left behind. And now 125 is a division that's getting more publicity and there's more opportunities there. It's probably always been the weight that my size is best for, but there wasn't necessarily the opportunity to do it.
I even asked Bellator, after my last fight, if they were going to start a 125 division, or had any thought in doing it, and they said that they weren't. The weight class change is, I think, something that's going to be good and put me in the best position that I can to compete at my best. I definitely have been expanding my training and looking elsewhere. I trained at the Philadelphia Fight Factory for my whole career. It unfortunately closed at the end of January this year. I moved to my good friend Will Martinez, friend and training partner of mine for a long time. He has a gym in northeast Philly, he's a Bellator fighter. I train there when I'm in Philadelphia. I try to make trips as often as I can up to New York, almost every week, to train at Marcelo Garcia's academy and improve my Jiu Jitsu there. I've also made five trips up to Montreal to train at Tri-Star Gym to train with Firas Zahabi and everybody up there. And that's just a phenomenal team for MMA. I feel like I'm seeing the best of what I can and I feel like I'm continuing to improve. I'm the best fighter I've been so far.
You kind of tied me into my next question, which was your departure from Bellator. You mentioned that they didn't have a 125 lb. division, but I've read that there may have been a contract dispute as well. Is that right?
This is from Eddie, I assume you're talking about. I don't think that had anything to do with my release. They told me, about my release, that I had lost this last fight and that they couldn't keep my active enough. Just before the Dantas fight I had added some additional fights onto my contract for a potential raise. If I were to beat Dantas my pay scale would have gone up pretty significantly, and if I lost to Dantas my pay scale would have stayed where it was. In that deal I put in that they have to have... they were going to give me three fights every 14 months. Which is a reason they gave me why, on releasing me. They said that they just couldn't keep me active enough to fulfill that end of their agreement.
The issue I had was that... so when I signed that additional fights to my contract I had a potential raise against Dantas, and if I lost the fight I was supposed to go back to where I was. But Bellator has it that you're at a certain rate, and if you win your pay goes up by 1000/1000 for your next fight and if you lose it stays the same. It never decreases. I won the tournament, I had two non title fights, so my pay scale increased for each of those fights. Then I signed this new part of the contract to fight Dantas and if I lost I should have went back to where I was, not the original spot, which is what they offered me. Basically what happened was, they weren't going to give me another fight in 2012, besides Dantas. I had to kind of really push to get that fight with Leone. And then when I got the bout contract it was for 2000 and 2000 less than what I believe my contract said I should be fighting for.
They said they weren't sure on the language in the contract. But what they did say was, that if I insisted on getting what my contract said, they wouldn't be able to afford to put me on the card to fight for that and that they could offer me this 2000/2000 less. So if I wanted to fight this year it's basically... and it was my choice to accept the fight, but it was like 'you can accept this, or you can wait till next year and fight and do whatever.' That rubbed me obviously very poorly. But my manager negotiated my contract, and he is the one that I received all this information from. We were basically in this spot where if I wanted to get another fight in 2012... I only had one and I lost, so I didn't have my win bonus. This is all I do right now, so I definitely needed at least a second fight in a year. I kind of had to accept those terms. It was unfortunate, and I did what I had to do because I needed a fight. That's the story there and Eddie knew about it because we're good friends and we talk. I never wanted to bring it up. I really honestly did have a very good experience with Bellator, up until this point.
It's hard for people on the outside to see all the moving pieces. All we see is 'oh the fighter lost, and now he's fighting over here.'
That's one of the issues. When I got released from Bellator I was pretty surprised, but in reality it was kind of the result I wanted, just not maybe in the manner I wanted it to happen. Really the only reason I wanted to get out... well the potential drop to flyweight was, but it was just a matter of being more active. Unless they're running a tournament in your weight class you're really fighting very very rarely, if at all. I like the tournament idea, but I think it has to progress to a different level. All they have time for is running tournaments. They haven't run a 135 tournament since Galvao won, and now they're running one in June. So if I would have fought Dantas and then not been in the tournament I would have waited over a year before I had another fight. I just can't... I'm not making the kind of money where I can afford to do that.
Do you have any feelings on the whole Eddie Alvarez situation right now? It's kind of boiling over.
For sure. I mean, I completely understand why Bellator wants to keep him. Not only is he, in my opinion, one of the best lightweights in the world, but if you watch his fights, win or lose, he's like a human highlight reel. His fights are exciting no matter what the result is. He's a very exciting and phenomenal guy to have on your roster. Bellator released him, and they have these matching clauses... from what I understand, I think they matched the wording of the contract, but if you understand MMA and the UFC, you know the words of the contract are the same, the values of the contract are gonna be different.
It's just a matter of, did Bellator have to match that? Because you can't prove how much you'll make being on a pay-per-view, or for potential sponsorships from Fox. I think he's in a really tough spot, I'm hoping it works out for him. I see it as that they matched the wording of the contract but not the value. I don't know how you're going to judge if that is an actual match or not. Eddie's been great to me in my MMA career, in my life. He's a great friend and I really wish nothing but the best for him. I hope it all works out.
I know that the winner of your upcoming fight gets a title shot in Cage Fury, but do you have a long term vision for the UFC? There aren't a lot of fighters in the flyweight division, a couple wins could put you in their sights.
For sure, that's the goal. I think the goal for anyone who competes in MMA is ultimately to fight in the UFC. I think the drop to flyweight, like I said, is good for me and my size. But it's also a good time, because, like you said, they don't have a ton of people on their roster. It's a new weight class, they're looking to build it. Even, potentially, if I perform outstanding in this fight, who knows? Maybe they'll look at me right away. Maybe they want me to win two fights or whatever, but that's definitely where I would like to be and, I think, where everyone really would like to be.
You can follow Zach Makovsky on Twitter: @ZachFunSize