Polish lightweight, Marcin Held has been competing in some form of combat art since he was nine years old. Today, at the ripe old age of 23, he'll be fighting in a mixed martial arts cage professionally for the 24th time against talented Russian striker, Alexander Sarnavskiy under the Bellator banner.
With an exemplary record of 20-3, Held boasts 15 finishes and an extremely impressive array of grappling awards, medals and titles, and has been on a five-fight tear through the promotion, with his most recent victory over Patricky Freire crowning him the Bellator Season 10 Lightweight Tournament champion. To call him an over-achiever is putting it lightly.
Bloody Elbow recently sat down with the Polish grappling ace who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the fight with Sarnavskiy, whether he still thinks about making the drop to featherweight and his desire to have another go at Michael Chandler and Dave Jansen sometime in the near future. Here's what he had to say:
Tiger Sarnavskiy represents a very real threat to Marcin's title hopes and has a stellar resume of his own, with a near pristine record of 30-2, and 25 of those wins ending before the final bell. Held feels confident in his abilities, both on the ground and on the feet, but still plans to take the fight to the ground, where he feels he has the biggest edge.
"Sarnavskiy is really a very good striker, so I will definitely be trying to take this fight to down on the ground, but I've been working on my striking a great amount and I'm confident that I will do well on the feet or on the ground, wherever it might go. I'll be fine in all places."
Joanna Jędrzejczyk, another Polish athlete making big waves in MMA, recently won the UFC women's strawweight title. Marcin has never trained with her yet, but hopes to do so one day, and feels that she has helped make a positive impact for Poland in the MMA community.
"I'm really happy she won her bout. It is the first UFC Polish belt. We never trained together, because she lives a little bit far from me, but maybe someday we will get the opportunity."
Marcin is a driven fighter, and not one to take kindly to extended periods of inactivity. Since the fighters he would have chosen for himself presented a long wait between bouts (even longer than his current 7-month slump), he decided it was more practical to take another fight while he waits his turn at either the belt, or for one of the two rematches he's been wanting.
"After I won the tournament, I was supposed to fight for the title, but I guess Dave Jansen was in line before me. It would have been a long time if I had waited for the title fight, so I asked them for an additional fight in between. I wanted Michael Chandler, but that fight could not be made, so they gave me Sarnavskiy, which is still a good fight, but I would still like to fight Michael Chandler again someday. I also would like another fight with Dave Jansen someday."
In an interview last year, Held expressed interest in a possible move down to featherweight. While he feels the cut would be very easy for him, for now, the 23-year-old is planning on holding fast at lightweight.
"I think I can make that cut (to 145) easy, but for now, I'm going to stay at lightweight. I feel good at this weight, but if I wanted to go down, it would be an easy cut, for sure."
Will Brooks currently holds the Bellator lightweight title and is facing Dave Jansen in a title bout on tonight's card, as well. Held weighed in on Brooks' skillset, but still feels that Jansen presents a very big threat and could very well end up with the belt.
"I think Will Brooks is good everywhere. He's a good striker, and good on the ground. He's not like the typical striker or the typical wrestler. He's a little bit good at everything, but in this fight with Dave Jansen, I think Dave has a really good chance to win."
Marcin Held vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy takes place tonight on the Bellator 136 main card, live from Irvine, CA via Spike TV. Check your local television listings for times.