Bellator 80 headliner Joe Warren no longer flirting with featherweight, eyes tourney slot

Pat Curran taught Joe Warren he wasn't a featherweight.

Following a brutal knockout loss to Curran that stripped him of his belt, Warren (7-3 MMA, 5-2 BFC), who fights Owen Evinger (7-3 MMA, 0-2 BFC) on Friday at Bellator 80, said his priority is fighting as a bantamweight.

Retirement, though, is not an option.

"I know there are a lot of people out there that are saying I'm done, and hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion," Warren told (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | "If anyone doesn't believe in me, I invite them to sit in front of their TV on Friday night and watch me pummel the s--- out of this guy. I'll change their perspective real fast."

Bellator 80 takes place at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Warren vs. Evinger headlines the MTV2-televised main card, which follows prelims.

Warren's brash confidence is one of his defining features. He isn't one to shy away from big challenges – or big proclamations. He entered the sport of MMA in 2009 with no amateur experience and immediately fought top-tier competition overseas. He went 2-1 before signing with Bellator, where he won the promotion's Season 2 featherweight tournament and then the title.

But the fighter acknowledges he's in new territory.

"I've never been in a situation where I've lost twice in a row," he said. "It's not something that's normal for me. Nothing has happened to me from my last two losses other than me just getting better from them. Those defeats were very upsetting for me, and they bruised my ego, but bruises heal, and they're all healed up now."
Eight months after he stepped into the cage against Curran, his conviction has only grown stronger. But he hasn't lost his sense of humor about the steep odds he ran at headlong.

"I swear to God I thought [Curran] looked small when we were weighing in, but then when I shook his hand inside the cage I was like, 'Who is this guy?'" he said with a laugh.

The competitor in Warren ultimately believes he can turn around his career. Despite recent setbacks, he plans to compete in the Season 8 bantamweight tournament and hopes to get a shot at current champ Eduardo Dantas.

"I believe that my last two fights were freak occurrences," he said. "I've always fought the best, and I feel like what happened in my fight against Vila could have happened to anyone. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know it sounds bad, but it's the truth. I got hit with a punch that I probably wouldn't get hit with a thousand other times.

"Against Pat Curran, what am I supposed to say. I fought a huge, talented featherweight, and I got caught with a big knee. I don't think I was out of shape or outclassed. I just feel like it was Vila and Curran's nights.

"I'm just really confident and excited now that I'm at a weight class where I'm comfortable. I'm going to have to cut some weight to get down to 135 pounds for this fight against Evinger, so I feel really good. I feel a lot more competitive at this weight. I'm going to be big and strong for all of these fights."
Bellator 80 headliner Joe Warren no longer flirting with featherweight, eyes tourney slot |