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Juan Archuleta hopes to avoid fighting teammate Georgi Karakhanyan in Bellator tourney

Juan Archuleta realizes that fighting his teammate could turn into a reality depending how the Bellator featherweight tournament plays out.

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Juan Archuleta knows what it’s like to train with a champion of a major MMA promotion. Now he’s trying to become one himself.

Archuleta meets Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire in the Bellator 228 co-main event Saturday night. The fight is one of four first-round matchups of the 145-pound grand prix on the card.

“The Spaniard” trains at The Treigning Lab in south California alongside the likes of former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, and he said that’s a kind of experience “you can’t buy.”

“Being around these guys and being around champions, you know you’re putting in the same work and it’s your time to be a champion,” Archuleta told Bloody Elbow at Bellator 228 media day Thursday in Los Angeles. “This weekend I’m going to prove that.”

Archuleta also trains with Georgi Karakhanyan, who happens to be in the tournament, too. Karakhanyan meets A.J. McKee on Saturday’s card. Archuleta said he and Karakhanyan will avoid fighting each other at all costs, but he realizes they may have to cross paths depending how the bracket plays out.

“Once I knew I was going into the tournament, I gave him a phone call and let him know,” Archuleta said. “He said, ‘Absolutely, brother. Let’s do this. Let’s go in the finals. And if it’s not me winning the million, I hope it’s you.’ And I said, ‘Likewise. If it’s not me winning the million, I hope it’s you as well.’ Even if when we both make it out of this round and we have to fight each other, he deserves this title shot. He’s put in his diligence. We’re going to both embrace it.”

After the four first-round matchups at Bellator 228, the eight fighters advancing to the quarterfinals will decide the tournament bracket in a lottery-style draw. This could give Archuleta and Karakhanyan, should they both advance, the option of not fighting each other.

“That’s the best thing about the lottery,” Archuleta said. “Hopefully I’m No. 1 and he’s No. 2, or I’m No. 1 and he’s No. 4, or vice versa, so we can pick opposite sides of the bracket.”

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