Joe Warren is fighting stateside but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about the abrupt ending to his breakthrough DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix run.
After besting former WEC Bantamweight Champion Chase Beebe and K-1 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix (155-pounds) Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto to open the tournament and his MMA career, Warren’s lack of experience caught up to him as submission ace Bibiano Fernandes defeated him with a contested armbar 43 seconds into their semi-final bout.
The 2007 World Cup Greco-Roman wrestling champion hasn’t competed since but his entrance into Bellator’s second featherweight tournament, where he will face veteran Eric Marriott (17-2) in the first round, gives Warren another shot to emerge with a belt and $175,000 in cash.
“I wanted to fight in front of the American public,” said Warren of his decision to sign with Bellator.”Bellator, with open arms, they wanted me there.”
Bellator’s open arms will allow Warren to continue to compete for DREAM, an opportunity which his other suitor, Zuffa, couldn’t offer. He also enjoys an option to pursue the Olympics; Warren missed qualifying for the 2008 games due to a positive test for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The University of Michigan wrestler’s single-mindedness has him weighing fights—including non-tournament bouts—at 135 and 145-pounds in DREAM and Bellator.
“I enjoy the tournament aspect of it, the winning aspect of it, the scheduling, title shot,” said Warren. “That makes it way more comfortable fighting for me if I’m in that kind of atmosphere.”
Warren asserts his Greco-Roman wrestling career took him all across the world in one of the toughest sports in the world, preparing him for situations “a lot tougher than that” tournament in Japan.
“I learned a lot. We did bout a month of training before we got into the fight with Beebe so it was very, very new,” said Warren of his first tournament. “I’ve learned more since the tournament’s been done because I’ve been able to slow it down and work on technique. I just really learned how tough this sport really is.
“I respect MMA a lot more now, just the with all the technique, the variations [from] the different sports. Coming from a sport like Greco-Roman [wrestling] where technique wins, I’ve learned a lot. I learned that I pissed off and I’m going to smash this jiu-jitsu guy Bibiano.”