by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Taking headlining duties for the second consecutive time, newly minted WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles is set to make his first title defense against the surging Dominick Cruz at WEC 47 in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night.
Since his introduction into World Extreme Cagefighting just two years ago, Bowles has been on a rampage through some of the best that the 135-pound weight class had to offer. It wasn’t enough to halt the undefeated streak of the current champion, who holds what most MMA pundits would consider a humble 8-0 record, but then that wouldn’t tell you that whole story.
In those eight fights, Bowles has defeated top ranked opponents such as Olympic boxer Will Ribeiro, title contender Damacio Page, and former 135-pound champ Miguel Torres, all by knockout or submission.
Having already faced an array of different styled opponents in his WEC tenure, Bowles will now face one of the division’s better wrestlers and tallest combatants in Cruz, who stands five feet nine inches tall. But size, much like anything else, never really matters once the cage door closes.
“He’s a great wrestler. I think that’s one of the things that he’s best at,” said Bowles recently on MMAWeekly Radio.
“He may not be a collegiate wrestler, or like an Olympic level wrestler, but then again some of those guys can’t put it into MMA. I think he really mixes his wrestling into his MMA game really well, and he’s hard to hit,” he added.
“He’s just a clever fighter and I think I just got to stay focused, stay relaxed, and just be patient and let the fight come to me.”
But not too relaxed, right?
“You definitely can’t stay too relaxed,” said the Hardcore gym product.
“I definitely can’t just let him have rounds. (If) I let him have rounds, then I’ll be down and I’ll feel desperate and I don’t want to have to feel that in a fight. I want to go out there and try to finish the fight and try to win every round, just like he is. I’m not going to sit back and just wait for one move. I’m going to push the fight and I’ll try to win every round, just like I always do.”
While most gyms throughout the country have a bevy of different body types and skill, Bowles finds himself improvising new training regimes in order to be as successful as any 135-pound Georgia kid can be.
“A lot of us little guys in Georgia… we’ll train with each other,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
“All the better guys that are at our weight, we’ll meet up a couple times a week and train together, so we’re not like if somebody’s from a different gym, we (won’t) train with them. We try to help each other out and I think that it helps us out a lot.”
What came from the ashes of his win over Miguel Torres in August of last year was exactly what Bowles was looking for. Consistently viewed as the underdog in every one of his fights – often times regarded as a flash in the pan, lucky, or even over-hyped – Bowles took from everyone what he always wanted.
“That’s one thing I like and one thing I want is I just want to be respected as a fighter,” he said.
“I want people to see the effort that I put into it, respect my skills, and see what I bring to the table. Just like me as a fighter and respect me as a fighter.”
And the attention that comes with the newfound fame and respect is now easy to stomach.
“This is awesome. For me, it will be the first time being in the main event where it’s all about me,” said the 30-year-old. “Really, last time it was about Miguel and whoever’s fighting him. This time it’s more about me and who is fighting me. Who’s going to be fighting me? Who’s next?”