Bellator light heavyweight Rich Hale (18-4-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) is confident in all the usual areas of his abilities leading into a fight with Beau Tribolet (7-1 MMA, 0-0 BFC) in the opening round of the promotion’s “Summer Series” tournament.
“I see myself putting numbers on him in the standup, seeing how much he can take,” Hale today told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “If the fight goes to the ground, it’s definitely going to be by my decision.
“Personally, I feel like it’s going to be a first-round knockout.”
But Hale, who makes his second tournament appearance, also has a hunch he could have an advantage in another area. Tribolet, a Bellator newcomer who currently enjoys a seven-fight win streak, is 10 years older, and that could translate to a mental edge inside the cage.
“I think a lot of the older guys just beat themselves up in their heads and convince themselves that they can’t do it any more, that they’re getting old and they’ve got more aches and more pains,” he said.
“Obviously, being in the sport, we take on a lot of punishment. Our bodies are exposed to a lot of injuries … that changes how we do things. But overall, I don’t see a huge difference. Age, to me, in the sport, is just a number. If you get to a certain point and lose the fight within yourself, that’s really where the breaking point is. I don’t think it’s anything from their actual physical ability.”
Of course, Hale won’t know if he’s on the mark until they meet on the main card of Bellator 71, which takes place Friday at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester, W.V. The event’s main card airs live on MTV2, while preliminary-card fights stream on Spike.com.
But while Hale believes he’s perhaps more clear-headed than Tribolet, he admits he’s also a little distracted. A loss to Christian M’Pumbu in the finals of the Bellator Season 4 tourney haunts him to this day.
“So the biggest thing is: Beau Tribolet is my ticket to M’Pumbu,” Hale said. “Who’s next in the tournament will be my ticket after that. And so in turn, that’s the guy I’ve got to focus on at the time.
But don’t be mistaken. In the back of my mind, M’Pumbu always sits there. Every morning when I’m waking up and every night when I go to bed, that loss still lingers. It still hurts, and I definitely want it back.”
To counter any mental lapses, Hale said he still practices an old bodybuilding habit of leaving notes for himself at the gym and at home. Some notes are just single words such as “champion.” Others are a little bit more specific: “Stay away from the fridge, fatty.”
So far, it’s working. Hale’s only loss is to current champ M’Pumbu, who himself is likely recovering from a lapse in the form of a decision loss to veteran Travis Wiuff in his first post-championship appearance.
“You’re not going to see a bodybuilder type flip over and lock in an inverted triangle,” Hale said. “I must have figured something out.”
That move, of course, came more than a year ago in Hale’s first appearance under the Bellator banner. It was a stunning finish, one he said prompted the promotion’s marketing department to cast him as a submission expert rather than as a boxer, where he felt more comfortable.
Hale is looking for another big finish, and Tribolet could provide an easy opportunity. But he won’t be tricked into thinking that M’Pumbu is around the corner.
“It’s going to distract from some of your focus, but overall, you need to really tune in and be ready for when it’s fight week,” Hale said. “You can use that for drive to get you ready for the fight. But realistically, when it’s fight week, everything is about that opponent. Nothing else matters.
“I don’t believe you hold back, personally. I think every fight is an important one, and if you don’t put in all you have in every single one of the fights, you may not be guaranteed a fight in the next round. If you don’t put it on the line, you could be giving up your shot.”
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