Darrion Caldwell is flashy in the cage and finishes fights. He’s a good talker and, most importantly, has legitimate skills. He’s also only two fights away from the Bellator MMA bantamweight title — a win over Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 159 this weekend will earn him a shot at bantamweight gold against champ Eduardo Dantas. Simply put, Caldwell is a star in the making.
Bellator MMA is fully on board with this reality. The organization is pushing him as the next big thing at bantamweight. The 28-year-old’s upcoming fight serves as the headliner of the event, but he’s already familiar with the spotlight — he fought Joe Warren in his first main event slot last year.
After Caldwell’s impressive first-round submission over the former titleholder, Bellator MMA re-signed him to a seven-fight contract. And while the rising bantamweight would potentially excel in the UFC, he’s very content staying with the Viacom promotion. At the end of the day, it’s all about the money. And, to hear him tell it, he’s getting a lot of that.
“If it ain’t about the money, don’t be blowin’ me up (laughs),” Caldwell told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I love MMA, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t about being able to get in this game and eventually retire and be able to live a life, happy and satisfied and not having to work again. I feel like I’ve put all my work in — guys aren’t waking up at six in the morning and leaving the gym at eight at night, putting in eight hour days. It’s just gotta happen.
“Once this contract is up, I think Bellator, they’re going to want to re-sign me. I’m gonna give them every reason to wanna re-sign me. I don’t think I’m gonna be going anywhere.”
But it’s not just the money that is making Caldwell uninterested in a future with the UFC. It appears that Spike TV and Bellator MMA have stuck with their “fighters first” campaign, which launched earlier this year.
“Bellator has done everything to make me feel like I’m at home and like I’m part of the community and the family at Bellator,” he said. “Hopefully they want to put more money behind me after this fight and I wouldn’t want to leave after [my] contract (expires).”
On top of that, Caldwell isn’t even certain the UFC is home to all of the greatest fighters, despite that being a prominent consensus among the mixed martial arts community.
So, with that belief, Caldwell appears to be in a pretty good position — he’s being treated well, paid well and is fighting the best fighters in the world (to him, anyways).
“If Eddie Alvarez can come in and win a belt within two years, then there’s gonna be talent [currently in Bellator] that can do the same. He just solidified what I’m thinking,” he said. “UFC has got a lot of depth. I can’t downplay the fact that the UFC is a great organization. They’ve got a lot of depth. But in terms of the best fighters, I highly doubt they’ve got the number one fighter in each weight class.”
Caldwell fights Joe Taimanglo in the main event of Bellator 159 this Friday, July 22nd at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. You can find him on Twitter @TheWolfMMA.