Bellator 222: Prospect Mike Kimbel looking to prove a peer wrong in his quest to become a dominant fighter
A young prospect, Kimbel has grown to become a record-breaking star with Bellator in just a short period of time.
If there is one thing Bellator is known for, it is how to handle their prospects. Connecticut’s Mike Kimbel is just the latest entity to make their presence felt inside the Bellator cage. In a stacked bantamweight division, the young Kimbel’s (2-1) goal is to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
Kimbel is set to face Sebastian Ruiz on Friday, June 14 inside Madison Square Garden. Knowing how rich in history MSG is when it comes to sports, Kimbel sees this as the ultimate opportunity.
“It is a true dream come true,” Kimbel stated during media day in regards to fighting inside Madison Square Garden. “Who does that? Seriously, who comes into MSG in their fourth fight on a card with a bunch of stars? This is my first time ever being inside The Garden. I have always heard about it through media and have seen plenty of great moments inside The World’s Most Famous Arena. Knowing Muhammed Ali has been here, from boxing to MMA, it is just amazing to be involved.”
One of the youngest prospects in Bellator, Kimbel was growing up around MMA’s rise in popularity. Seeing the beauty of the sport, along with his mom watching him watch what he would end up doing was important to him. She, along with a few driving forces, became his influences in his career.
“My mom became my biggest supporter,” Kimbel continued. “I just loved watching MMA, with fighters like Georges St-Pierre and Chuck Liddell. She actually thought it was karate. On a personal level, Michael Page is like a brother to me. I love my management team, and Conor McGregor has been giving me words of wisdom. My teammates as well, this truly is a team effort. Taking little things and rolling with what is good is how I put in the work, like a sponge. I’m a 22-year-old kid. If I thought I knew it all I don’t know where I’d be.”
Kimbel beat Alex Potts at Bellator 207, tying the record for fastest knockout in Bellator history in just six seconds. That was after knocking out Geoffrey Then at Bellator 194. While he was controlling his last fight against Josh Douma at Bellator 215, he lost via triangle choke after a slam that could have ended badly. While fight fans haven’t seen much of what he can do, Kimbel is working hard to expand his game. Getting a purple belt, Kimbel is looking for the next step in his evolution.
What truly motivates Kimbel to become the best that he can be? A small interaction with a high school professor helped his passion grow.
“I’ve been training since I was 13. When I was a junior in high school, I produced a PowerPoint for the class I was in,” said Kimbel. “At the time, MMA was just about to be legalized in New York, and I presented a case for why it should be. My teacher stopped me and asked if this is what I want to do, I said yes. His response was, ‘Your odds of making it in the big leagues is like my odds of being an NFL player tomorrow.’ I said I respected his opinion, but I’ll show him. Here we are, not even four years later and I’m about to blow the roof off of Madison Square Garden.”
Kimbel believes he is three or four fights away from challenging for the Bantamweight Championship. While he already has the respect of many of his peers, Kimbel needs more time to truly hone his craft.
“By my area, there hasn’t really been a true role model,” said Kimbel. “The principal asked me to come in to speak to the kids at my school, and I respectfully declined. I feel like I’m not of that stature yet, I’m not a champion. I’ve set records but I haven’t won ten fights. Right now, I’m not that guy. It will be interesting to see down the line when I do come and visit if that teacher is in the NFL yet.”
Ruiz is the first obstacle in his way. Getting back into the win column is important for Kimbel’s growth, but it won’t be easy. Ruiz is a wide striker and has never been knocked out. Kimbel has also heard he is a durable fighter, but he is looking to end all of that talk. From the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT to Madison Square Garden, Kimbel has had an interesting journey in just a short period of time.
With family and friends coming down to support him, Kimbel will look to add more fans to his team. As long as he doesn’t talk pizza with anyone from New York, of course.
“Connecticut has the best pizza,” Kimbel proclaimed. “There’s Frank Pepe’s, but there are little shops in Waterbury that serves pizza better than New York or anywhere else.”
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