Former Bellator MMA titleholder Brandon Halsey doesn't need a belt around his waist to feel like the promotion's champion, but that doesn't mean he's not looking forward to potentially getting his title back this weekend.
Halsey (9-0) will attempt to reclaim the 185-pound title on Saturday, when he meets Rafael Carvalho (11-1) in the main event of Bellator 144 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Fighting out of Huntington Beach, California, Halsey won the Bellator title in September 2014 by submitting Alexander Shlemenko, but forfeited the belt after missing weight for his first scheduled defense against Kendall Grove in May. Halsey went on to knock Grove out in a nontitle fight.
Heading into this weekend, Halsey says he's still the champion as far as anyone is concerned, but he is anxious to put the ordeal of missing weight behind him. He came in at 188.1 pounds for the fight against Grove, 3.1 pounds over the allowable limit.
"My belt was taken on a technicality," Halsey told ESPN.com. "I'm still the champ. Nobody came in and beat me for my belt -- it's still mine. Everybody is still coming for me because they know I'm the champ. That's my feeling on it."
Halsey, 29, started his fighting career at 205 pounds, but decided to drop to 185 last year. It's a weight he hadn't been at since his junior year of high school. As an NCAA collegiate wrester at California State University at Bakersfield, Halsey competed at 197 pounds.
The subject of weight-cutting in MMA has generated a lot of interest in 2015 as various state athletic commissions, including Halsey's resident state of California, have begun to look at methods that would curb extreme cuts. Halsey offered his opinion on those methods and more.
You started your career at 205 pounds and you've spoken about moving back up. Why not make that decision now, after losing your belt at 185 pounds?
I've talked about this in the past, that I want to fluctuate weight classes between 185 and 205. Obviously, 205 would be more comfortable for me because I wouldn't have to cut as much weight, but the goal is to hold two titles at two different weight classes simultaneously. No one has ever done that in a big organization.
Is that a goal Bellator would even get on board with? It's a potential drawback for a promotion to have one fighter tie up two belts at the same time.
There's been some talk between myself and Bellator about it. Shoot, I'll fight for the 205-pound belt in one fight and then the 185 right after. I'm always ready to go. I love fighting and having it be quick between fights. I don't think that would be an issue, fighting frequently enough to hold two belts.
Describe your cut to 185 pounds. What do you weigh during the week of a fight? How much water are you drawing out of your body?
It's not fun. It's one of those things where you feel like you're hanging on by a thread because you're sucking so much water out of your system. I'm already pretty lean as I get down to make the weight, so to suck an extra 15 pounds out for weigh-ins, it kind of drains the life out of you. I like to be no more than 15 pounds off my weight the week of a fight. Have I been more than that during a fight week? Yes, but I'd rather not be so I don't make myself too weak. I've done a lot of studying myself, reading about it in college. I've got it down to a science when it comes to my body. It's been a lot of trial and error.
So, what happened with the last cut that led to you missing weight?
I'm not gonna lie, I was a little heavier than normal. No excuses, I should have been on weight. There were some miscommunications behind the scenes and some stuff that went on. I don't like to point fingers. I should have made the weight. There was actually no issue with me cutting. It was a timing thing. I could have lost the weight. Like I said, there were technicalities in play. I could have made weight if some of those didn't come up.
What is your opinion on weight-cutting in MMA in general? Does there need to be a cultural change that eliminates some of the extreme cuts?
It's a really opinionated topic because back in the day, wrestlers tried to cut weight and they weren't really educated on it. They did it in an unnatural way, and it's hard on the body. So, I feel like it's been given a bad rap. If people properly educate themselves more on weight-cutting and dieting properly, I don't see a problem with it. Yes, there's a point where it's unhealthy, but that's why you get physicals and blood work done and make sure you're healthy. It's a manageable thing. I think the people who aren't educating themselves on it are the people it's bad for. I don't think you can put weight cutting rules in a box and say, 'this is the set weight someone needs to compete at,' because everybody's different.
You've become somewhat known for your physical appearance. Is heavy weight training a bigger part of your fight preparations than most and have you considered limiting that for the purposes of making weight?
People want to have their opinions on, "this is the best way to do things," but I'm at where I'm at because of what I've done. I'm a big, strong guy and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Why am I going to cut back on weight lifting when that is what's gotten me here? You've got people saying I'm too big or whatever, but that's what's gotten me here. I'm a champion and I'm going to continue to do what I've always done.
Is it tempting to make that jump to 205 sooner rather than later -- not just because of the weight but because of the bigger names at 205 in Bellator (Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, Muhammed Lawal, Tito Ortiz, etc.)?
I don't like to jump into something that I don't feel I have to do. I'm a name in this 185-pound division and I don't feel like I need to fight these guys based off their name recognition or anything like that. I feel like when the opportunity presents itself, I like being in the right place at the right time. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. Yeah, I would love to fight at 205 and be that first person to hold two belts at the same time. I've definitely entertained the idea of fighting for the 205-pound belt when the time is right.