Viacom buys Bellator, plans 2013 start on Spike
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 18:53

MTV Networks' Spike TV channel is getting out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's business, but the broadcaster has increased its ties to mixed martial arts.

Viacom, parent of MTV Networks, bought a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will start airing the promotion's bouts on Spike in 2013, the companies told USA TODAY this week. They've had ongoing talks for about a year as they finished up various deals, and over the past month finally reached the point where they could announce the news, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said.

Selling to Viacom's entertainment conglomerate guarantees a stable future for Bellator, said Rebney, who will remain in charge of the MMA organization.

"It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us," he said. "Which is something that's been so seriously lacking in the MMA space with so many different companies, including Strikeforce and the IFL and Affliction and all the different failures that have occurred. … It alleviates those issues."

Bellator is the No. 2 promotion in mixed martial arts behind market leader Zuffa, owner of UFC and Strikeforce.

The experience and cachet of Spike in broadcasting mixed martial arts over the last six years makes it the ideal partner for Bellator, Rebney said. Spike became the first channel to embrace the sport when it started airing Zuffa's programming in 2005, including The Ultimate Fighter reality show and live UFC Fight Night events.

Although Spike's agreement to carry new material from UFC ends in December, the channel still has rights to the promotion's library through 2012. As a result, fights from Bellator won't air on Spike until 2013, said Kevin Kay, Spike TV president. In addition to continuing Bellator's current practice of having two seasons annually, Spike expects to run additional programs such as highlight shows and related content, both on TV and online.

MTV2 has been airing Bellator's main cards since March. MTV Networks increased its Bellator programming in September by streaming preliminary fights on Spike TV's website.

As early as last year, executives for Viacom saw little hope for reaching another deal with UFC.

"We had a great relationship with UFC and we still do," Kay said. "We helped each other to build each other's brand. Like all good things, you know that at some point it's going to come to an end."

Advantages of ownership

Owning its own promotion allows Spike to take a longer view and commits it more firmly to the sport, he said.

"As we realized that our relationship with UFC was likely to come to an end, our Viacom mergers and acquisitions folks, and us, started to have conversations with MTV2 about getting invested in a mixed martial arts promotion and become owners as opposed to renters," Kay said. "You're building value in something that you own, and you own it for the long term. You're not in a constant state of negotiation."

Other brands in mixed martial arts have been sold over the past year, most notably Strikeforce, which Zuffa bought in March. But Bellator's organizational ability, knack for exciting bouts and unique approach to fighter match-ups made it stand out, Kay said.

While most MMA companies put together cards based around single fights, Bellator has weekly shows built around eight-person tourneys to produce title contenders.

"The tournament format (is), we think, a great way to get the audience invested in the fighters as personalities, as characters," Kay said. "I think we can help, with the expertise we have in building fighters as fighters that people want to see and come back week to week."

Since starting in 2009, Bellator has built up a roster that includes a number of ranked fighters. Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, featherweight contender Pat Curran and featherweight Marlon Sandro are in the top six for their weight classes in the USA TODAY/MMA Nation consensus rankings. Middleweight champ Hector Lombard and featherweight titleholder Joe Warren are No. 13 for their divisions.

Other top-20 Bellator names include heavyweight champion Cole Konrad, welterweight champion Ben Askren, welterweight contender Jay Hieron, bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky and bantamweight tourney finalist Alexis Vila.

Bigger audience, more resources

The overall reputation for Bellator's assembly of talent remains far behind UFC, by far the largest and richest organization in the sport. But adding Viacom's financial muscle could help Bellator retain its biggest stars, or at least make it much harder for others to sign them away.

"They'll have a ton of more money to negotiate with," said Alvarez, who has three to four fights left on his current contract. "As long as I keep doing well and do what I'm supposed to do, the future looks bright."

He's been with Bellator since it started in 2009 with delayed airings on ESPN Deportes. Bellator has expanded its TV presence each year, with live shows on the scattered affiliates of Fox Sports Net in 2010 and a consistent presence on MTV2 this year.

"We both grew together," Alvarez said. "I'm sort of peaking in my career, and it seems like so is Bellator. … I was with a lot of promotions that failed, that flopped, and this is actually working. Everything's coming to fruition."

Moving to Spike all but guarantees a much larger audience for Bellator. Spike says it's available to almost 100 million cable and satellite subscribers, compared to roughly 80 million for MTV2. Spike is also easier to find in channel line-ups because it generally gets a lower number in the vicinity of other popular cable/satellite offerings such as FX, TBS, TBS and USA Network.

Spike also has high-definition broadcasts, these days a benchmark for sports programming. Bellator currently appears on HD only through Epix, which is not carried by some large cable providers.

"The goal is HD all the time and once we get to Spike, it'll be that way," Kay said. "When you're looking at an organization like Bellator, what you see is the opportunity for growth and to grow ratings. We have big expectations."

Fighters and managers will raise their sights too. Exposure to more viewers should help athletes land sponsors that can add a sizable amount to their income.

"I'm smiling ear-to-ear right now," Alvarez said. "I couldn't be any happier. Endorsements are hard to come by when you're on ESPN Deportes and these other smaller channels."

Audience expectations

Bellator's largest audience for a live broadcast on MTV2 was an estimated 325,000 viewers for a show in May. Spike has generally drawn between 1.2 million and 2.2 million viewers for UFC Fight Night shows.

TV ratings and pay-per-view buys for UFC have flattened or declined this year. Spike's executives dismiss concerns that the sport's popularity has peaked. Injuries to big names beset several UFC main events since March, which Kay describes as a short-term problem.

MTV2 airs Bellator on Saturdays, often pitting it head-to-head with UFC's live programs. Executives haven't decided what night will work on Spike, but next year's run on MTV2 gives them a platform to test ideas. The effect of not only UFC, but other sports, needs to be measured, Kay said.

"There's a lot of factors we're going to analyze and figure out," Kay said. "Also, where's our audience used to watching it? … We've got a lot of good research and data to think about where it goes. I don't know that you want to program football against football or baseball against baseball. We'll look at all of that."

Bellator deserves at least two years on Spike before its success can be evaluated, he said. The channel has been willing to give its shows time to develop, especially when it owns the content and is investing in its development. Kay cited Spike's patience with comedy Blue Mountain State, which started with unimpressive ratings before blossoming.

No one expects Bellator's numbers on Spike to match UFC right away. Losing UFC's cachet as the industry leader has risks, but Spike's experience moving from World Wrestling Entertainment to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2005 shows that long-term exposure eventually can boost numbers when switching from one brand to another, Kay said.

"I had the same fear: 'Are people going to watch another wrestling organization on Spike?' " Kay said. "That first year or so, we had probably (an average of) 600,000 viewers. Last week we had 2 million; it's the highest-rated TNA in the history of Spike."

Competing or complementary?

Zuffa over the last few years has been pushing into other countries aggressively, going so far as to sell a 10% stake to an arm of the Abu Dhabi government because of that entity's ability to open new markets. Viacom's resources will also fuel expansion plans outside the United States and Canada, Rebney said.

"The timing remains to be seen in terms of when exactly that occurs, but that will occur," he said. "International expansion of live Bellator events will absolutely occur."

Even though Bellator will replace UFC on Spike and occasionally try to go after the same talent, Rebney and Kay declined to characterize themselves as direct competitors with UFC.

"They're No. 1 in the space, there's just no question about it," Kay said. "Who's more competitive than Dana White? I am, but that's not a horse race we really want to run around here. I think we respect that organization tremendously."

Bellator and Zuffa have occasionally butted heads over talent -- they're currently suing each other over fighter contracts -- but executives from both companies steer clear of harsh words. Even UFC President Dana White, never shy about disparaging promoters who irritate him, maintains a mild tone.

"The people from Bellator have never said anything about us," White said recently. "I have nothing to say about them either. They're out there. They're doing their thing. Good for them."

Spike taking over Bellator could help Zuffa in terms of public perception. Critics argue that Zuffa has become a monopoly by acquiring other brands such as Pride Fighting Championships and Strikeforce, making it difficult for other companies to break into the space and taking away options that might give fighters negotiating leverage. A thriving Bellator would erode that argument.

At the same, UFC's continued growth and success would help Bellator and Spike because it would expand the sport as a whole, executives said. Bellator's announcement with Spike comes less than three weeks before UFC makes its debut on Fox.

"It's a very, very good day for mixed martial arts as a whole," Rebney said. "Because now you have two groups in the space that have a very substantial presence that obviously isn't going to go anywhere for a very, very long time."

Full Article

Zach "Fun Size" Post Fight Interview
Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 14:52

Nickname Masks Love for the Game
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:24

There is nothing fun-sized about Zach Makovsky’s love for mixed martial arts.

The Bellator Fighting Championships bantamweight titleholder will meet UFC veteran Ryan Roberts in a non-title bout at Bellator 54 on Saturday at the Boardwalk Hall Ballroom in Atlantic City, N.J. The Makovsky-Roberts matchup was originally supposed to flank a five-round title fight between Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. However, an injury to Alvarez foiled those plans and thrust Makovsky’s super fight into the spotlight.

The 29-year-old Bethlehem, Pa., native has had to learn to deal with such attention, as his career has humble roots in amateur wrestling.

“I [have] wrestled since I was 6 years old,” Makovsky told “I was always watching [MMA]. Even when I was in high school watching the early UFC events, I was always interested.”

Makovsky wrestled collegiately at Drexel University, where a teammate introduced him to MMA training at the Philadelphia Fight Factory in the offseason.

“We started training a little bit. I liked it a lot and started competing in grappling tournaments,” Makovsky said. “I graduated college and decided to give MMA a shot.”

A two-time gold medalist at the FILA Grappling World Championships, the man they call “Fun Size” bolted out of the gates quickly in MMA, as he won his first three fights by decision. EliteXC was on the phone shortly after, and, in his fourth professional outing, he faced Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Wilson Reis and suffered his first defeat in an arm-triangle choke submission. While he was based in wrestling, his first few fights afforded him the opportunity to test out another skill set.

Ryan Roberts File Photo

Roberts is 0-1 in Bellator.
“My first couple fights, I fought four jiu-jitsu black belts in a row,” he said. “Everyone thought I was a striker.”

Makovsky (13-2) -- who has not fought since he stopped Chad Robichaux on third-round punches at Bellator 41 in April -- does not abandon his bread and butter wrestling unless the situation calls for him to do so. An adept submission grappler, he has focused his training on rounding out his MMA game, particularly his standup.

“My submission wrestling style is based in my wrestling style. I’m a top-position player, which is primarily where I am because, usually, I get the takedowns,” he said. “It’s more high-paced and really hard to get a hold of a wrestler in no-gi situations, and [it] makes it very difficult to get caught. I’m always trying to improve everywhere. I’ve wrestled my whole life, but wrestling in MMA is different than regular wrestling. I think you can see that when jiu-jitsu guys are taking down world-class wrestlers.

“I work on everything separately, but, really, once you get in there, it’s about putting everything together,” Makovsky added. “I’m doing well at that. I haven’t shown too much striking, but it really depends on the opponent. I wanted to stand more in my last fight, but he was aggressive coming forward so I used his aggression to take him down.”

As his bout with Roberts approaches, Makovsky keeps an eye on the ongoing Bellator Season 5 bantamweight tournament, which will provide him with his next title contender. The field includes unbeaten 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Vila, who wiped out Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren in the quarterfinals.

“I think the tournament is stacked,” said Makovsky, who has won seven consecutive fights. “I’m excited just to watch it. I think everyone is really good.”

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s acquisition of Strikeforce and its addition of the featherweight and bantamweight divisions provides 135-pounders like Makovsky with the opportunity for more high-profile fights, more substantial paychecks and global recognition.

“It can only make things better,” he said. “It’s going to bring more recognition to our weight classes.”

Well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of his peers in the UFC, Makovsky also keeps tabs on the dominance of bantamweight champion and pound-for-pound ace Dominick Cruz, as well as the problems he poses for the rest of the division. MMA is more than just a job for Makovsky; it is his passion.

“I like to watch film on my opponents, but I’m also just a big fan of the sport,” he said. “I don’t feel like if I watch them it’s going to affect my training.”

With the conclusion of the bantamweight tournament on horizon -- in addition to his showdown with Roberts -- Makovsky grows more reflective about what MMA means to him. The desire to compete has proven more of a lure than money and fame.

“This is what I love to do, so I want to make a career of it,” Makovsky said. “If I start worrying about money or what my ranking is, it’s going to diminish how much I like what I do. I want to continue fighting because I love it. I’m trying to focus on being the best fighter I can be and let everything else take care of itself. I’m looking forward to competing against these guys.”

Zach Makovksy - People Would Know Who I Am If I Fought In The WEC
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:22

Zach Makovsky is one of the top bantamweight fighters in the world, yet to most fans he's completely unknown. This is because he's not fighting in the UFC and never spent time in the WEC. Instead, Makovsky cut his teeth in the Bellator bantamweight tournament. I had a chance to speak with Makovsky about being a Bellator fighter and if he ever feels slighted because he hasn't spent time in a Zuffa run organization. He also gave me his thoughts on the current bantamweight field and who really impressed him in the first round of the tournament. He's an exciting fighter and a name that people should definitely become familiar with as he possesses the skill set to be a force in the division for years to come.

Recently there have been a string of Bellator fighters that have been outspoke on the amount of press coverage their fights received compared to the UFC. Bellator heavyweight Neil Grove went as far as publicly tweeting about Bloody Elbow's coverage of his promotion. I asked Makovsky if this was a common feeling on the Bellator roster, the "Us Vs. Them" attitude. He was pretty straight forward in his response saying, "I don't know. I try not to get caught up in any of that. It kind of is what it is. The UFC is by far the biggest name in the game. I would think to most casual fans, they don't know the sport is called Mixed Martial Arts. To them, the sport is Ultimate Fighting. It's frustrating from that kind of stand point. But at the same time you appreciate what the UFC is doing and they're obviously doing good things for their business."

He added, regarding the UFC's policy of treating fighters outside the organization as ones not to regard, "At times it takes away from other organizations, we also wouldn't be in the spot we're in now without what they've done for Mixed Martial Arts. I don't know what to say, they have the majority of the best fighters in the world and I don't think anybody argues that. But just because they have that doesn't mean there's not anyone else outside of the UFC, which I think they tend to neglect. They have the majority of the best fighters so I understand why they don't give us coverage."

Unlike many American bantamweights, Makovsky never fought in the WEC. Compared to his contemporaries, he's a relative unknown to most fight fans and because he doesn't have a WEC fight on his record, he's not regarded as a top fighter. He was honest about this, telling me, "I think it's just a matter of exposure, you know? Before I got into the Bellator tournament, I hadn't really fought on any big stages. I was never in a televised bout. I fought in EliteXC on the undercard and I fought over in Tokyo in DEEP, but I was never exposed to a large population of fans until I was on TV. And even now, it's still a much smaller amount of people than what the UFC would have on Spike or pay per view, but it's slowly growing and slowly getting more exposure and I thank Bellator for that opportunity."

"I mean, of course if I fought in the WEC earlier I would have had that exposure so people would know me better but I kind of really started building my name in Bellator. I kind of was under the radar until I got in the tournament and ended up winning it. There's not much else I could have done otherwise. I don't think the WEC would have had me in there before I created a name in Bellator which is a good thing about Bellator. They give you the opportunity to get into a tournament where you're not being matched up with a certain fighter here or there. You're in a tournament and you have a chance to win it, it's kind of cool that way."

He also spoke about the current field of bantamweight compettitors and who impressed him the most out of the semi-finalists in this year's bantamweight tournament. "There was a lot that went on there. Some I expected and a couple things I didn't. I thought Galvao and Beebe would be a close fight like it was. I thought it would be a split decision for one of them. Galvao came out on top. Ed West looked pretty good and did what he does well. He's a tall guy for that weight and used his height and high volume of kicks to control the stand up which I thought he would do and he did it well. I was impressed with Dantes really. For how young he is, he's really composed. He doesn't do anything really fancy, he does a lot of basic stuff but it's all sharp. He has a good ground game and a good striking game."

"And obviously Villa knocking out Warren, I think Warren kind of came in with a strategy where he wanted to strike with Villa. Villa's clearly got some power in his hands and when he plants and throws, you don't want to get hit by that. Joe got caught doing what he's done in the past with the reaching with his hands away from his head and not protecting himself and got caught with that big punch. He should have tried to wear him down or push him against the cage and wear him out a little bit before trying to really strike with him. I think I match up pretty well with them, Villa would probably be an interesting fight for me. I'm really interested to fight other wrestlers because I come from that background. So for someone on paper who is a much better wrestler than me, an Olympic bronze medalist, it would be a real test for me to see how well rounded I've become and a good way to challenge myself."

Makovsky fights this weekend in Atlantic City at Bellator 54 in a non-title fight against Ryan Roberts. The card also features the Middleweight Tournament semi-finals.

The Next Big Thing interview
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:19

The Next Big Thing returns with special guest and Bellator bantamweight champion Zach "Fun Size" Makovsky. Zach and Spencer go through his upcoming fight with Ryan Roberts on Saturday night, what a move to Spike TV would mean for Bellator and the remaining fighters in the Bellator bantamweight tournament. It's a fun show as always, so make sure you check it out using the player below!

Champ Zach Makovsky expects 'big' challenge with Ryan Roberts at Bellator 54
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:14

by Staff on Oct 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm ET

Bellator bantamweight champ Zach Makovsky isn't exactly a stranger to training with bigger guys.

Unless you're a regular with the Urijah Faber-led Team Alpha Male, a fighter of his stature can bet on rolling at a weight disadvantage for much of his training.

On Saturday at Bellator 54, Makovsky (13-2 MMA, 5-0 BFC) meets Ryan Roberts (16-9-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) in his second non-title bout since winning the bantamweight strap in season three.

Roberts makes his debut at bantamweight after several appearances at lightweight, and Makovsky knows the fight is no walk in the park.

Makovsky vs. Roberts airs live on MTV2 as part of the main card for Bellator 54, which takes place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Preliminary action streams live on

"He's fought some very tough competition," Makovsky told Radio ( "He's fought Duane Ludwig, Marcus Aurelio, (Donald) 'Cowboy' Cerrone. He's lost to all those guys, but this is his first time at 135, so I think he's going to be pretty big and strong."

Makovsky hasn't been deterred much by challenges since he began his Bellator career. Thus far he's racked up a five-win streak in the promotion and hasn't lost since August 2009.

And as Makovsky noted in an earlier radio appearance, he is used to fighting taller opponents. That, of course, means that he's frequently required to take them down in order to negate a reach advantage, but he's not sure how the fight with Roberts will play out.

"I like to feel out the beginning of the round and kind of see how they're attacking me and what kind of pressure they're bringing," Makovsky said of his strategy. "I definitely want to keep him off guard from the beginning. (I want to) start that wearing him down process immediately if I can."

Thus far, he's worn out countless opponents on the mat, and Roberts' inexperience with the grind of a grappling match at 135 pounds may aid Makovsky if the fight goes into deep waters.

"We'll see," he said. "I don't know how he's going to handle the weight cut."

With Bellator's next bantamweight tournament currently unscheduled, the champ is more focused on keeping himself sharp for the next challenger to his title. That isn't Roberts, but it is a chance to stay in limelight.

"I'm expecting a tough fight," Makovsky said.

For more on Bellator 54, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino's Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by Gorgeous George, lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Goze. For more information or to download past episodes, go to

Bellator Bantamweight Champ Zack Makovsky Just Wants to Have Fun
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:11

Zack Makovsky's nickname seems to apply to more than just his size.

Makovsky's "Fun Size" nickname is mostly a playful jab at his physical stature. But the Bellator bantamweight champion is making the size of the fun he has carry over elsewhere, too.

Makovsky said spending his time just trying to improve as a fighter and compete to the highest of his ability is what keeps mixed martial arts fun for him.

"I think I definitely am understanding how to compete in MMA more," Makovsky told host Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of "The MMA Hour." "I really think I'm trying to put everything together. My mentality is probably the biggest part of it. I revamped my whole mentality, especially from when I was (wrestling) in college. I try not to care if I win or lose. I just try to have fun with it and do the best I can."

So far, that philosophy has translated quite well for Makovsky (13-2, 5-0 Bellator). On Saturday, at Bellator 54, Makovsky has what amounts to a stay-busy fight against Ryan Roberts. His 135-pound title will not be on the line. He won't put his belt up for grabs until next year, when he fights the winner of the ongoing Bellator bantamweight tournament.

Makovsky said he likes Bellator's tournament format – after all, winning the inaugural bantamweight tourney is what put him on the major MMA map. But at the same time, he said it has some drawbacks.

"Going into the tournament, I was unknown to the majority of the MMA community," Makovsky said. "I like that about Bellator – it's a tournament and you control where you go yourself. I like how they let you get there on your own.

"(But) there's a downside as far as once I won the tournament, I've had a lot of downtime. I fought six times in 2010, and I'll only fight twice in 2011 with no title fights. There's ups and downs."

Makovsky even joked that because of the downtime this calendar year, he may have been better off not winning the first bantamweight tournament – just making the finals. That way, he could compete in this year's bantamweight tourney and make more money.

Still, the product of the Fight Factory, in Philadelphia, where he trains alongside Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, said winning the $100,000 tournament a year ago put him in the position, financially, where he can just concentrate on becoming a better fighter. He no longer has to pay the bills by being an assistant wrestling coach at Drexel University, where he competed collegiately.

"I wasn't making a living (fighting) by any means until I got into Bellator," Makovsky said. "My first fight, I fought for $300 to show and $200 to win. I saved a little bit from winning the tournament, but it's definitely different (not having a job). I'm very happy doing what I love for a living. I get to sleep in when I want and set my training schedule – so I'm living the dream."

Though he's on a seven-fight winning streak and holds a title for one of the most prominent MMA promotions in the world, Makovsky said he's not prepared to say he's a Top 10 bantamweight in the world. Not that he isn't confident in his skills, but it's just not his style.

"I think my skills are up there with those guys, (but) I don't like to say where I should be ranked," Makovsky said. "That's up to the media. I want to continue to grow and be the best I can be, and something like that would put extra pressure on myself. That's not where I'll have the most success. I'll have the most success when I'm focusing on me and getting better. Everything else will take care of itself."

Including, he hopes, the fun.

Bellator champ Makovsky gets turn in spotlight
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:09

By Sergio Non, USA TODAY

Bellator Fighting Championships' 135-pound champion gets the bantamweight stage to himself this weekend.

Zach "Fun Size" Makovsky faces Ryan Roberts on Saturday at Bellator 54 (7 p.m. ET, streaming video; 9 p.m. ET, MTV2) in Atlantic City. Makovsky, who has yet to defend the bantamweight belt he won last year, will compete for the first time since an April victory against veteran Chad Robichaux.

Makovsky's belt wasn't on the line in that fight and it won't be at stake this time. Bellator's use of tournaments to determine contenders generally limits champions to one title defense a year, while waiting for the next tournament's results.

Roberts has a four-fight unbeaten streak. As a former competitor at 155 pounds, he's also bigger than Makovsky, who only cuts about 10 pounds to make the bantamweight limit.

"I think he's pretty good at everything, but I don't think he's exceptional at anything," Makovsky says. "He's well-rounded, but I think I'm a little bit better than him at every area."

But Roberts is the type of fighter that a champion should beat. Five years into a fighting career that includes a bout in UFC and two previous appearances for Bellator, Roberts has a journeyman's record with 16 wins in 27 fights. In 2008 and 2009, Roberts lost six consecutive fights.

That doesn't make the fight any easier in Makovsky's mind.

"You don't want to lose to someone you're not supposed to," he says. "We're almost expected to win these fights. It's a weird scenario, but I try to just treat every fight as the same."

Yet Makovsky says he no longer obsesses over the idea of victory. After fretting over defeats as a collegiate wrestler for Drexel University, Makovsky learned to stop worrying and love the experience of being a fighter after suffering his first loss in mixed martial arts.

"I understand that even if I lose, it's not going to define my career," Makovsky says. "I'm going to continue to fight and train and be the best I can, and I don't care where I end up in the rankings. … I kind of tried to care less about winning and I've gotten more success."

He's won seven fights in a row, including his title-winning run a year ago in Bellator's inaugural bantamweight tourney. The USA TODAY/MMA Nation consensus rankings list Makovsky at No. 17 for bantamweights, one behind Alexis Vila, who recently qualified for the semifinal of Bellator's current 135-pound tournament by knocking out featherweight champion Joe Warren.

Makovsky might benefit from a sympathetic crowd. Atlantic City is barely an hour's drive from Philadelphia, where he lives and trains at the Fight Factory with notable
fighters such as top-six lightweight Eddie Alvarez and female star Tara LaRosa.

Before joining Bellator last year, all but one of Makovsky's first 10 fights took place in New Jersey, one of the more active areas for regional MMA in the United States. Five of those bouts occurred in Atlantic City.

Bellator 54's main card will also feature the semifinals of the Season 5 middleweight tournament. Alexander "Storm" Shlemenko faces Brian Rogers and Bryan Baker takes on Vitor Vianna.

Shlemenko defeated Baker in the final of last year's 185-pound tourney. The winner of this year's tournament will take on champion Hector Lombard, the consensus No. 13 middleweight.

Injured cards: Tonight's show for M-1 Global and and Saturday's Bellator card were supposed to feature the poster boys of those organizations. But injuries to M-1 heavyweight champion Guram Gugenishvili and Bellator lightweight champion Alvarez put them on the shelf.

Gugenishvili, a submission expert who is unbeaten in 11 pro fights, suffered injuries to his elbow and arm less than two weeks before he was supposed to headline tonight's M-1 Challenge XXVII show (11 p.m. ET, Showtime) in Phoenix by facing Kenny Garner in a rematch.

Garner instead will face Maxim Grishin for an interim title belt. Gugenishvili has already beaten both of them.

Alvarez hurt himself in training last month, delaying a title defense against Michael Chandler that was set for Bellator 54. The lightweight championship bout instead will take place at Bellator 58 on Nov. 19, the promotion said this week.

Bellator bantamweight champ Zach Makovsky on his upcoming fight at Bellator 54 – Exclusive
Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 18:55

It’s been nearly one year since Zach Makovsky (13-2) became Bellator’s first-ever bantamweight champion, and despite the absence of a number one contender the Philadelphia native hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Since winning the championship, the 29-year-old has not only gone on to win a non-title bout this past April, but he also quit his job to focus exclusively on his training. Makovsky hopes that all of the diligent work he is doing now will pay off in the future when he eventually steps into the cage against the winner of Bellator’s Season 5 bantamweight tournament.

But the champion remains focused on one thing at a time and isn’t letting the ongoing tournament distract him from his upcoming non-title bout later this month.

On Saturday, October 15, Makovsky returns to the cage to take on Ryan Roberts (16-9-1, 1 NC) at Bellator 54, which will take place at the Boardwalk Hall Ballroom in Atlantic City, New Jersey.’s Josh Cross recently spoke with Makovsky about his upcoming fight, what it was like to become the first-ever Bellator bantamweight champion, and what he thinks about the Season 5 tournament fighters who are trying to get a shot at his title.

PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk about competing in Bellator’s first-ever bantamweight tournament and what it was like becoming the champion after you beat Ed West in the finals?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: The tournament itself was a great experience. I think I was kind of under the radar as far as anyone knew, and I really like that about Bellator. It’s not really about matchmaking if you get a spot in the tournament. You control your own destiny and you earn your own place. I think I matched up pretty well against the other guys in the tournament. It just kind of gave me more confidence in my ability and knowing that I’m doing the right things and I’m on the right path. Not that I’m anywhere close to being as good as I would like to be, but I know I’m doing the right things. Being the champion now I’m starting to get a lot more recognition and obviously more financial opportunities so I was able to stop working at a job at Drexel University and now I’m able to do what I love full-time and just train and fight.

PRO MMA NOW: What was going through your mind while you were waiting for the decision to be read in that fight with Ed West? Did you have a feeling that you had won it or did you have any doubts at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I thought I controlled the fight pretty well. He did a good job of not really letting me do too much damage or really even hold any kind of dominant position that I could really attack from. I knew he would be real tough on the ground and he was, but I was confident that I controlled probably every round and I thought I did pretty well in the stand up as well. He might have thrown a higher volume of strikes but I pretty much blocked everything and I was trying to move forward and force him into making mistakes and take that opportunity. I was confident going into the decision. I’m just very grateful to have that opportunity and the future opportunities that it will present me with as far as being able to do what I love for a living and continuing to fight against top level guys. It’s always good to challenge yourself and see what you’ve got.

PRO MMA NOW: Moving on top your upcoming fight on October 15, can you talk about your training camp and how that has been going?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: My training camp is going very well right now. This is really the first fight that I’ve not had another job while training so it’s my first kind of full-time training camp. I think because I had so much extra time in the beginning I started kind of overdoing it a little bit and I was actually getting a little banged up. So I had to ease off a little bit and now that I’ve gotten into my groove I feel really good and I’m ready to go. Obviously I train at the Philadelphia Fight Factory and I’ve got great training partners there. I trained with Eddie Alvarez before he got injured, and we have a lot of really talented guys there that not many people know about. I’ve also been wrestling at Drexel University with the wrestling team and I’ve gotten to go to Ricardo Almeida’s place up in New Jersey and train a little bit with the guys up there like Frankie Edgar and some others as well.

PRO MMA NOW: How much do you know about your opponent Ryan Roberts, and how do you feel that you two match up going into this fight?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I don’t know a ton about him, but I do know a little bit. I’ve seen two of his fights from this year. He has a ton of experience. I think he has something like ten or 11 more fights than I do. He’s been competing at the top level for a while. He’s fought for he UFC and he’s fought some very talented guys like Marcus Aurelio, Donald Cerrone, and Duane Ludwig. Even though he lost to all of those guys he has still been in there with them so he has a good bit of experience. I think more recently he has been fighting at 145lbs. and he has been doing pretty well there, so I expect him to be big and a pretty strong guy. As far as his skills go, I think that he is pretty good at everything, but not great at anything. I think that I’m a little bit better than him everywhere. I think he’s going to be strong and kind of hard to control, but I think I’ll be able to win the fight wherever it goes.

PRO MMA NOW: Now Roberts has seen the most success in his fights while remaining on his feet. How comfortable are you with the idea of standing with him in this fight?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Well, I’m constantly trying to work at everything. Of the two fights I’ve seen of his, the majority of both were standing. He’s won a bunch of decisions pretty much by out kickboxing people lately, but I can see a lot of opportunity in the way he fights. I think I’m going to have a decent speed advantage although he might have a little bit of a strength advantage. The thing is that you don’t have to be a better striker or a better grappler to be successful. It’s about how you put it all together. I think that’s kind of something that I’m really coming into my own with and learning how to put it all together at the same time. I think that’s what being really successful at MMA is all about.

PRO MMA NOW: Now you’ll be defending your title for the first time against the winner of the Bellator’s Season 5 bantamweight tournament. Is there anyone specifically that has caught your attention at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I was pretty impressed with a bunch of the fights on the [September 24] show. I thought that Ed West and Eduardo Dantas looked really good. I think that’s going to be a good matchup in the semifinals. I hadn’t seen much of Dantas before that fight and I was impressed. I mean for his age, he’s pretty young, but he looked really composed and calm. He had sold fundamental striking and I know that’s he’s also really good on the ground as well. Wilson Reis, the guy that [Dantas] just knocked out, has a win over me from back in 2008. I’m friends with Wilson now and we’re training partners here and there, and I know how good he is, especially on the ground. [Reis] seems to kind of want to box and strike more lately so I don’t think that was a good strategy going in to fight Dantas. Then Alexis Vila obviously wowed a lot of people. He’s obviously got some big power in his hands, and I thought Joe Warren would do a better job of kind of trying to wear him out by clinching with him and pushing him against the cage some, but it seemed like Warren kind of wanted to strike with him and was reaching out again like he has done in a couple of fights and his hands weren’t up protecting his face. That’s not the kind of thing you want to do against a guy like Vila who has that kind of power. I think that Vila has a good chance to make it to the finals. I think he matches up pretty well with Marcos Galvao, but I also think that whoever wins between Dantas and West could give Vila a lot of problems in the finals. So I mean I don’t know. I’m interested to see it play out and I’m ready for whoever wins it.

PRO MMA NOW: Besides successfully defending your title, is there any other specific goals or aspirations that you might have for your career at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I would just like to keep competing at the highest level that I can. I’m not really trying to really look for any kind of real specific opportunities. I’m really trying to not kind of look at it like that. I just really want to block everything out and just focus on me getting better and becoming the best that I can be as much as I can. I’m really just trying to narrow my focus to that and then hopefully let everything else kind of take care of itself. I think that if that’s what you’re focused on and you’re really set on doing that, then I think everything else will kind of fall into place.

PRO MMA NOW: What would you say would be the best way for fans to keep track of what you’ve got going on and what you’ve got coming up?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Anybody can follow me on Twitter (@ZachFunSize). I also just launched my new website recently, which is I’ve got some new videos, news, blogs and stuff like that on there as well so check it out.

PRO MMA NOW: Are there any people you want to thank or sponsors you might want to plug at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Sure, I’d like to thank my team that I train with at the Philadelphia Fight Factory. We’ve got one of the best teams going on. I’d also like to thank Yoked Up, Gamma Labs, and all of my fans and friends who support me.

Fun Size fits all: An MMAmania interview exclusive with Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky (part two)
Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 18:51

For Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky, the pressure is being ratcheted up a notch.

The aptly nicknamed "Fun Size" has a strong history of grappling, having competed at Drexel University. He's fully embraced the submission arts, winning the gold medal at both gi and no-gi in the United States men's grappling world championships in 2009 and 2010.

After winning Bellator's inaugural bantamweight title in late 2010, he's now gearing up for his second consecutive "superfight" showcase while he waits for the next title challenger to emerge from the season five bantamweight tournament.

He'll be squaring off against UFC veteran Ryan Roberts this Saturday night (October 16, 2011) in the main event of Bellator 54 just a hop and skip away from his Philadelphia home in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Makovsky is a very cerebral fighter. He broke down his potential challengers in part one of our interview posted yesterday. Today, he tells about the mental aspect of fighting, how letting MMA become an obsession impacted him negatively and how he plans to take out Ryan Roberts on Saturday night.


Brian Hemminger ( I know you've mentioned in the past that at times, you were almost obsessed with MMA and you let other things slide. Can you tell me about finding that perfect balance between focusing on fighting and training and your personal life?

Zach Makovsky: It's not easy. I still get caught up in it and I'm sure my girlfriend could tell you I get a little obsessive with my training. It's definitely not an easy thing. It's my job but it's also my passion so it's always on my mind. Even when I'm doing other things it's in the back of my mind and you really have to take a step back and it's really in your advantage to kind of get away from it a little bit.

It wears you down mentally a lot if you never let it off your mind. The more you kind of think about it, overall the more pressure you have on yourself to really do well and perform and do specific things, I think when you take that pressure away, you get to have a lot more fun with it. Really, you're probably a little more successful because you don't have that extra pressure on you and I think overall you're a happier person and a happier athlete.

I've found that, even from my days of wrestling in college, I was very one-track minded and wrestling, I was pretty much in school just passing my classes but I was there to wrestle and train. I had a very specific goal. I wanted to qualify for Division I nationals. I put all my focus into that and I put so much pressure on myself that really wore me down and what came down to it, I didn't get to perform the way I thought I could, the way I know I could and I didn't have fun with it. In the end, you have to be content with whatever happens.

Losing is a part of sports. It happens all the time. Everybody loses. I think the overall goal is to focus on doing the best you can, becoming the best you can be and if you're really on that focus, everything else kind of falls into places including your personal life. You have to have a balance where you're not constantly worrying about all this stuff. Trust in the things you're doing and be happy.

Brian Hemminger ( So is that one of the reasons you listen to relaxing music and you're just trying to clear your head before a fight instead of getting amped up like other fighters?

Zach Makovsky: I just don't like to bring emotion into it. I think it's more kind of like a tactical, not an emotional thing. I almost view it as a workout. I'm going in there to do what I can and I don't view it so much that there's someone in there that's going to try to hurt me and I've got to fight. It's just kind of a different way of competing and I'm trying to separate the fight piece of it away from it. That works for me. People have a lot of success fighting off of emotions too.

It kind of depends on the person. I always try to go in there understanding that I don't have to be nervous or worried. This is what I love to do. I say to myself, "There's no place I'd rather be right now." I like to always kind of keep that. Even the songs I come out to are songs that evoke positive emotions, upbeat tempo, nothing that's going to evoke anger or aggression or anything like that. When I fought Ed West for the title, I came out to 'It's a Beautiful Day' by U2 and I think that's kind of the typical kind of thing that I'd like to come out to. That's just the mentality of how I approach it and I've found more success when I relax and take some pressure off and enjoy what I'm doing.

Brian Hemminger ( Let's talk about that upcoming fight you've got. You have a Bellator bantamweight superfight and you're facing Ryan Roberts, a guy who fought in the UFC at lightweight. He's a huge fighter. He went down to featherweight recently and has had success. I believe he's 6-1-1 in his last eight fights and now he's dropping down to bantamweight for the first time. Can you tell me about stepping in there against a guy that's probably going to be significantly bigger than you.

Zach Makovsky: Yeah, he's got a lot of experience at heavier weights against really good guys. I think this is his first fight 135. I expect him to be strong and physically powerful and from a technical standpoint I think he's good at everything but not great at anything. I think technically I have an advantage in every area, at least in my mind. I think I'll have a speed advantage and I think I'm better at putting everything together.

When I watch his fights, he kind of focuses on one thing at a time like he's trying to strike or trying to takedown, one thing at a time whereas I think to really have success you have to constantly bring everything together. I think that's an advantage that I have. I'm expecting a tough fight. I know he's going to be strong and he's going to come in there and he's been on a pretty good winning streak so he's confident. I'll be ready for it.

Brian Hemminger ( Most of his losses have come by way of submission and that has really become a strength of yours, at least the wrestling and turn it into a top-control submission game. Does that give you confidence coming into this fight?

Zach Makovsky: I think I have a good chance to submit him. I think I'll be able to get him down when I go for takedowns but I think he's gonna be hard to control once I get there. It's kinda like when you fight someone, you have to let them play the game. If I take someone down and they're like, "Okay, I'm on my back, we're gonna play a jiu-jitsu grappling kind of game now," then I've kinda sucked them into that game where I think he isn't going to be willing to play that game.

If I get him down, he's gonna be looking to not grapple with me but to push me off and get back to his feet immediately. It definitely is a little bit of a different challenge. Again, when you do that, you leave openings especially in submissions and strikes too so I think it might be tough to catch him in a submission if he has that mentality of just trying to get up right away. Like I said, I'm pretty confident I can beat him wherever the fight goes. I'm gonna let him pick his poison and whatever opportunities he presents me, that's what I'm gonna take advantage of.

Brian Hemminger ( This fight is going to be taking place in Atlantic City which is pretty close to your hometown of Philadelphia. I think this will be the first time you've fought in Bellator even close to that area. Does that get you a little extra excited to get out there in front of your hometown fans?

Zach Makovsky: Yeah it's nice. I fought a lot in New Jersey and Atlantic City as I was coming up and now that I have a little bit more recognition and a bigger name and have done bigger things, I'm excited to come back and fight around here again. It should be enjoyable. I guess I'm the main event now because Eddie [Alvarez] got hurt so it's just another thing that makes me feel good that I get to headline a Bellator card in Atlantic City close to my hometown. I'm very excited for that opportunity.

Brian Hemminger ( I know you're probably not a prediction guy, but in a perfect world, how would you like this fight with Roberts to play out?

Zach Makovsky: With my hand raised at the end. I really don't care if I win by knockout or submission. I would like to finish the fight. The less time I'm in there the better, but realistically it's hard to finish people. It's not easy and the more you try to build towards that kind of stuff, the more you force it and the less likely I think it is to happen. I would just like to go in there and just control every aspect of the fight.

If he presents the opportunity to knock him out, I'd like to do that. If he presents the opportunity for submission, I'd like to do that. I'd like to control the striking with my movement, with my feints, with my strikes. I'd like to control when he attacks me so I can counter with strikes or takedowns. I just want to control every aspect of the fight and make him not sure of where to go or what to do because I'm in charge of everything. That's what I'd like to do.

Zach would like to thank Philadelphia Fight Factory, his trainers Steve Hague, Ricky Lee, his sponsors Yoked Up and Gamma Labs

So what do you think Maniacs?

Will Makovsky take care of business this Saturday night against the UFC veteran Roberts? What are your thoughts on his mental approach to the fight game?

Sound off!