As the fighters sat waiting for Bellator Fighting Championship CEO Bjorn Rebney to call the Bellator 16 post-fight press conference to order, their various postures had already began answering questions.
Russian middleweight Alexander Shlemenko’s sullen slump suggested his frustration at not finishing his opponent.
The reserved reclines of former IFL Champion Ryan McGivern and TUF 7 castmember Luke Zachrich seemed to illustrate their reflection on opportunities missed.
Sporting sunglasses and orange rust-faded jeans, Matt Major (6-2) caressed a red rose while sitting on the perimeter conveying…well he’s Matt Major.
Eric Schambari (12-1) sat alert and brimming with anticipation. While surely proud of his performance earlier in the evening when he submitted Zachrich with an arm triangle, it appeared as if something in the immediate future was the real reward.
As Rebney announced the match-ups for the semifinal round of the Middleweight Tournament, that something became apparent. Upon hearing that he would be matched with Bryan Baker (13-1), Schambari gave a celebratory fist pump and smiled with satisfaction.
“The reason I signed with Bellator was because I heard he (Baker) was going to be in the tournament.” Schambari told FIGHT! magazine.
It’s a fight the 32 year old has wanted ever since losing a razor thin split decision to Baker in December of 2007.
Shortly after that loss Schambari suffered a training injury. While rehabilitating, he suffered a career threatening allergic reaction to a medication he was given and was unable to compete for 14 months.
Now, after an additional 14 months since his return to action, Schambari finally has the opportunity to avenge his one career loss and is confident in his abilities.
“If he wants to swing with me, I wont mind trying to cave in his skull.” claimed Schambari. “If he wants to go to the ground with me, he already knows what’s going to happen. Where ever the fight goes I’m going to be prepared.”
For his part, Baker also seems to welcome the fight. After his impressive first round TKO victory over Sean Loeffler Thursday, Baker spoke to commentator Jimmy Smith about Schambari, “I want to see what he’s learned.” and added, “I’ve beat him once and I’m gonna beat him again.”
Their first fight was under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner and turned into a three round grind which many scored as a draw.
Both fighters have developed significantly in the 28 months since and it’s anyone’s guess how the results will differ. Schambari, however, is confident he can win.
“It’s my chance to set right what once went wrong.” said Schambari. You get the feeling he’s anticipated saying that for a long time.