When you talk about some of the most decorated combat sports athletes in the world, Joe Warren’s name is bound to appear at the very top. As a Greco-Roman wrestler, he won the Pan Ams in 2006, and later the World Championships in 2008.
And when the opportunity provided itself, Warren started competing in mixed martial arts. Joe notched up some impressive victories in Bellator MMA, having defeated the likes of Patricio Freire, Joe Soto, Marcus Galvao and current bantamweight champion, Eduardo Dantas.
Joe is also a two-division champion in the promotion, having won the 135 lbs and 145 lbs titles. Even after accomplishing so much in the sport, Warren isn’t ready to walk into the sunset just yet.
In fact, the 40-year-old plans to have one final run as the Bellator Bantamweight Champion. Joe is scheduled to fight a young prospect in Steve Garcia this Friday, and I had the chance to catch up with the former champion, to talk about various topics - from his fight with Dantas, to what’s left for him to achieve in the sport.
Q: Joe, going into your fight with a prospect in Steve Garcia, do you think this will be a statement fight for you after your loss to Dantas?
Joe Warren: Yes, you know, this is a very, very similar situation for me. Right now, I’m on my way back to get my belt again. I won three belts in Bellator, and this is a very comfortable situation. I’m back where I started, and this is a young up and comer. I plan on impressing myself, and putting this man down in the Bellator cage.
Q: Garcia has notched up some impressive victories before his loss last year. How do you analyse his style and technique going into the fight?
Joe Warren: I don’t analyse his technique. My coaches, they worry about the person I’m fighting. They worry about his technique and who he is as a person. I worry about the fact that he is just a body in front of me and running through it.
So, I’m worried about my performance, and I’m not worried about his. If I do what I’m supposed to be doing and impress myself in that cage, then I will come out with my hand raised.
Q: Garcia is also a very versatile and rangy striker, but hasn’t faced anyone like you before. Do you think your style would work best against Steve, in shutting his striking game down?
Joe Warren: Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to worry about his style at all. In my last fight, I believe that I got beat in my footwork and hand speed. So I went back to the drawing board and figured out what I’m going to do, to evolve as a fighter.
To evolve as a fighter - to be known to evolve as a fighter these days you can’t afford to be left behind. So we figured that the reason I was beaten was because of the footwork and the hand speed, and we went back to the drawing board, and worked on that for the last six months.
So now, I have fast feet, fast hands. I’m more violent and intense than I’ve ever been. I got a new spark in my everyday training, so, it’s the most dangerous (version of me) you can have in a cage. I’m excited to perform this Friday and impress myself.
Q: Now you’ve had an impressive wrestling career. Can you talk to us about your reasoning behind transitioning to MMA?
Joe Warren: You know, I’m a competitor and a fighter. When I leave the gym, I’m a father. My son actually turned 9 last week. I have a daughter that’s 7; so I’m a family man. So, when I stopped wrestling, I started having babies. And Dan Henderson and Randy Couture, and Matt Lindland - they were on my Olympic team.
So they were making a lot of money, and, actually DREAM - the organisation in Japan called and offered me a lot of money, to come and have a fight. And I got on a plane and flew over there, to make some money. And the ball started rolling, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.
Ever since I got in that cage first time, it’s been one fight after another fight. One world title after another world title. So it’s been a very comfortable run, winning world titles, defending them and going back and winning them again. So it feels comfortable for me, and it feels like a natural progression of top Greco-Roman wrestlers to get into MMA.
Q: So do you think it’s a natural progression for a wrestler, to try and get into MMA (once he’s done with wrestling)?
Joe Warren: Yes, I do think it’s a natural progression for a wrestler. But that being said, it wasn’t an easy transition, you know what I mean? I didn’t have any training. I flew from my house to Japan and put gloves on for my first fight.
So I do think wrestling breeds hand to hand combat athletes. We, the wrestlers, are the most mentally tough athletes out there. So, when you’re done with wrestling, you don’t make that much money; you don’t make that much money wrestling either, so it’s always good to have the opportunity to fight.
Q: You’ve been the 135 pound champion in the promotion, and recently fought for the title. Do you think a big victory over Garcia, or maybe one more opponent will get you a shot at the title again?
Joe Warren: Yes, I believe that Dantas is holding my belt. He beat me in his last fight, but I beat him (previously) also, so, there’s a rubber match in there somewhere. And I’m really focused on getting back and fighting him one last time, and get my belt back.
I do think that with this victory - maybe another one, I’m back in there again. That being said, you’re only good as your last fight, so I need to get in there and perform, and do what I do best - run through opponents.
Q: You said you’re hungrier than ever before, and more dangerous than ever before. At the age of 40, what’s next for you in the sport of MMA?
Joe Warren: What’s next? Getting this big win this weekend and then I’m going after my belt one more time. That bantamweight belt is mine, and Dantas has it. And I would like one more shot at that belt before I hang up my gloves. I’m going to make this one more run at the title. I’ve been a part of the Bellator family for so many years, that I’m just honoured to still be a part of this family.
Scott Coker has always said he’d take care of me, my main concern is to make one more run for my belt. See if I can get that, and we’ll see what happens. But we’ll take one step at a time. We’ll see what happens (this Friday).
Q: What can the fans expect this Friday, once you step inside the cage?
Joe Warren: You know, my fans know, the Bellator Nation knows that I bring every single thing I have inside the cage every single time. So just be ready for ball-to-the-wall war. I plan on doing what I do best and wrestle. I’m going to use my hands to get to his body, take him to the ground and finish him with elbows.Published 12 Jul 2017, 21:34 IST