Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
KEY VICTORIES: Maicon Bastos, Eduardo Pachu
WEIGHT CLASS: 155 lbs.
It’s not always easy being known as a knockout artist with serious stand-up skills. For Brazilian prospect Bruno Carvalho, his dangerous striking skills have led him to some vicious knockouts, but it also leads to getting tagged with questions about his overall MMA game.
“I train everything so I can be prepared for all situations,” says Carvalho. “I try to keep the fight standing, but I’m ready to fight jiu-jitsu if my opponent can put me down.”
Carvalho’s background in the Muay Thai is well known throughout Brazil. He holds two wins over current UFC lightweight prospect Edson Barboza, and he has shown devastating power in both his hands and feet. Now, with his focus solely on MMA, Carvalho wants to prove that he’s ready for the big leagues, and if that means pulling off a few submissions along the way, then so be it. Like so many fighters, Carvalho hopes to land on the radar of UFC matchmakers Joe Silva or Sean Shelby, and he’s happy to do whatever it takes to get there in the meantime. Whether he’s one fight away or five fights away, Carvalho is committed to living his UFC dream, and that’s bigger than just making it to the big show.
KEY VICTORIES: Anita Rodriguez, Angela Magana
WEIGHT CLASS: 125 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
Following a start to her career that saw her win eight fights as an amateur and a professional, up-and-comer Jessica “Evil” Eye suffered the first loss of her career, losing to Aisling Daly just more than one year ago. The loss made Eye reassess her training and skill set. Since then, she’s rebounded with a five-fight winning streak.
“Obviously, the loss to Aisling was a huge devastation to me, so I wanted to change everything and come back with a lot of power so that I could show people that one loss doesn’t say anything about who I am,” says Eye. “I feel like I’ve grown up in the cage and grown up as a person. Now, I’m going to take everything I’ve learned in life and take it into the cage and use it. It’s one thing going into a fi ght knowing how to do something, but to do it under pressure when you actually need it, that’s hard, but I’ve learned how to do it.”
Eye has two victories under the Bellator banner, and she most recently defeated Angela Magana in the main event of Rock-N-Rumble 6 in Cleveland, Ohio. Having finally gained some national exposure during her Bellator tenure, Eye is eager to return to the promotion and be a big part of their launching on Spike TV in 2013.
“I’ve been extremely happy with Bellator and everything they’ve done for me and all the help they’ve given me,” says Eye. “I’ve decided to sign a two-year agreement with them, and they’ve talked about having me back when they move to Spike in January. I’m really going to take some time to get ready for what Bellator has planned and the tournaments they have coming up.”
KEY VICTORIES: Tyler Stinson,Brett Cooper
WEIGHT CLASS: 170 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
It’s been a one-year learning experience since Steve Carl last stepped foot inside the Bellator cage. When Carl made his debut in Bellator, he was a 12-1 prospect with aspirations of climbing to the top of the promotion’s welterweight division. Unfortunately for Carl, he went 2-2 over his four fights with Bellator, before leaving the organization in 2011. The losses served as a wakeup call for Carl, because as soon as he saw his name on the marquee, he thought he had made it.
“The losses that I had, I let the hype feed into me a little bit too much,” says Carl. “I got to see the commercials on TV, I got to see all this build-up, but really it’s still just two guys in a cage. I let it consume me. Now, I realize it’s just a fight. It’s you and another guy in the cage, and you’re trying to go in there and put it all on the line.”
Since leaving Bellator, Carl has amassed a perfect 4-0 record, with four submission finishes, all in the first round. He’s re-tooled his training—instead of killing himself every day just to prove he could push further than his opponent, he’s working to actually become a better fighter.
“Over the last couple of years with my training, I’ve really dialed it down,” says Carl. “I used to over-train. I would just push myself, because, mentally, I was putty. I didn’t think I belonged with those guys at all, and now my mental game is 100-times stronger, and I don’t need to push myself as hard.”
With his training schedule under control and his mental IQ for fighting at a new level, Carl is ready to jump back to the big show and prove that he belongs with any of the best welterweights in the sport. The Iowa native has his sights set on the UFC this time, and he knows he belongs there. Looking at the roster of UFC welterweights, Carl believes he can go toe-to-toe with the best in the world. Now, he’s just waiting for his opportunity to prove it.