In a time when it is arguably tougher than ever to stand out in a crowded marketplace, Bellator have appeared to find their niche to differentiate themselves from other promotions. After successful Heavyweight and Welterweight Grand Prix’s, the third installment of the tournament series begins tonight in San Jose, California with the featherweights taking centre stage. The 16 competitors taking part are made up of current and former world champions as well as prospects on the rise looking to cement themselves among the best in the weight class. Pedro Carvalho is one of the fighters aiming to make a name for himself in this tournament and he has been touted by some as a potential dark horse to progress all the way to the title and $1,000,000 prize money. He begins his campaign tonight looking to build on his current five-fight winning streak when he takes on UFC veteran, Sam Sicilia.
Carvalho (10-3) grew up in Portugal where he was raised by his mother and aunt who always looking out for him and gave him everything he needed due to the absence of his father. His life was a struggle back then because his family didn’t have lots of money so they had to work extremely hard for everything they received. This mentality is ingrained in him so naturally transfers to any situation that presents itself to Carvalho. He is indebted to his mother for bringing him up despite all of the obstacles she had to overcome.
“I could always see how hard my mother worked,” said Carvalho. “She always put me before herself to make sure that I had the best chances in life. From watching her, I learnt that if you want anything in life, you have to work hard and even that won’t always pay off. She’s my biggest hero and I want to give her and my aunt the life they deserve. Since 13 years of age, I have made many sacrifices to try and achieve my goals for them as well as others in my family. That’s why I always say that no one wants this more than me. That will become clear to people very, very soon.”
When he was older and in a relationship with his girlfriend, they made the decision that if he wanted to be the best in MMA he had to go and work with the best. The pair took the big step of moving permanently to Ireland so Carvalho could train at SBG. This was the gym he immediately thought of when he knew he needed to work with the elite and he hasn’t looked back since. In fact, SBG Ireland have just recently opened a brand-new facility which the 24-year-old believes will lead to even better results for the team.
Carvalho’s breakout performance came on the Bellator European Series in Birmingham back in May when he dominated and finished gritty, promotional veteran, Derek Campos, in the first round. After defending an early takedown attempt, Carvalho landed two big, body kicks which clearly hurt Campos. He used this technique again later in the round and sent his adversary to the canvas. Carvalho quickly swarmed to earn the first round finish that consequently signified his arrival among the best in the division. He actually expected the bout to be as one sided as it was and was pleased he sent a message to the Bellator featherweights.
“I wasn’t sure how long Campos would be able to take the pressure but I knew that fight would be the best performance so far in my career,” explained Carvalho. “It’s what I predicted and it happened. In my career so far, everything I said I was going to do I have done. I believe that I’m the best in the world and after this tournament, there will be no doubt anymore.”
That win earned him a new, multi-fight deal with Bellator and a place in the Featherweight World Grand Prix where the rewards are life changing. The next step sees him challenge tough, brawler Sam Sicilia (17-9) in the tournament’s opening round who would be another good name to have on Carvalho’s resume. Sicilia, who was a competitor on TUF Live, is also coming off of a win against Campos but it was much more of a back and forth fight that Carvalho’s contest. The American has shown some good form since moving to Bellator in 2017 but Carvalho doesn’t let opponents concern him.
“For me, it doesn’t matter who I fight or what their record is,” discussed Carvalho. “All I see is a faceless person who I have to beat to get to where I want to be. I’m going to bring pure domination to this tournament. On September 7th, I’m going to bring a different kind of pace and pressure than any of these other guys have ever felt before. All of my opponents will crumble. It’s always going to be about how much damage my opponents can take rather than who the winner will be.”
“I want all 15 of these guys in the tournament,” Carvalho continued. “I love to fight and the bigger the challenge the better. After this one, if I get to choose my match-up, I’m going straight after the guy who has the belt. Nothing else matter to me. I’m here to prove that not only am I the best, but I’m also on a totally different level to these guys. Winning is not enough. I have to dominate them and that’s what the world will see, starting on Saturday night!”
Bellator 226 kicks off live at 10 PM ET/9 PM CT exclusively on DAZN in the US and will also be shown live on Sky Sports Action in the UK/Ireland at 2am early on Sunday morning.