By Monta Wiley
Having a new lightweight champion crowned in the form of Michael Chandler, the lightweight division of the Bellator Fighting Championship looks to set the stage for another exiting lightweight tournament, where eight fighters will compete for the chance at $100,000 dollars and an opportunity to face the champion for the title.
Amongst this group of warriors is former Judo Olympian Rick Hawn (11-1). Hawn suffered his first career loss at Bellator 40, a split decision against Jay Hieron in the Bellator welterweight tournament finals. This disappointment was followed by a serious injury sustained in practice. Healthy and focused, Hawn hopes to erase his past misfortunes and is looking forward to showing the world why he is one of the elite fighters in MMA.
Fight Hub TV spoke with the TriStar fighter as he reflects on his journey in the fight game, thoughts on his return from injury, and getting ready to fight in the upcoming lightweight tournament.
FHTV: Starting your mixed martial arts career in 2009, how would you describe your development as a fight which has led you to your venture in the Bellator organization?
Rick Hawn: I would describe my development as a slow and precise one. I didn’t want to jump right in and fight all the best guys at first, I worked my way up the ladder kind of slow, with each fight a little tougher than the next. Every fight was to gain experience and to get an opponent with different skills each time. I believe that’s the best way to enter in a new sport. I see a lot of young fighters coming up and taking fights that their just not ready for and most of the time they lose badly. Get the experience first and then take on better guys is the best way.
FHTV: Now making your debut last year from the fighters to the experience as a whole, what separates the Bellator fight championships from the rest of the top promotions out there?
Rick Hawn: The Bellator tourney is different than the other promotions out there cause of the short time between fights, its something that can be very tough on the mind and body. Bellator is an up and coming company and I see big things in their future and I am very happy to be apart of it.
FHTV: Starting your pro career going 10-0, your first loss came from losing to Jay Hieron back in May of last year. What would you say is the positive element about not being undefeated anymore?
Rick Hawn: The one positive thing about having my first loss is that it’s behind me now, there’s no extra pressure of trying to stay undefeated. I never really thought about it much but a lot of people would always bring it up in interviews and conversation. I learned a lot in that fight and I don’t plan on letting that kind of loss happen again if I can help it.
FHTV: You made such a strong showing and were scheduled to debut in season five’s welterweight tournament, but were forced to pull out of due to an injury. How has the road to recovery been for you since the setback?
Rick Hawn: I was definitely looking forward to that next welterweight tourney until the injury happened. It took a few months of rehab to get back but I’ve been operating at 100% for a long time now and it feels great.
FHTV: How has Rick Hawn reinvented as a fighter leading up to the upcoming light weight tournament?
Rick Hawn: Since the injury and the drop to lightweight, I’ve really just tried to improve on all my skills and become the best fighter I can be. I’m at a new gym now with different coaches and training partners that push me very hard and I can really see the improvements in my style.
FHTV: Stepping back into the cage after almost 6 months off, how does it feel to step back into the cage and enter into a tournament where you could earn the opportunity to fight for the title?
Rick Hawn: I’m really looking forward to getting back in the cage after having so much time off. I just want to get back on the winning page and get a shot at that title. I am in the best shape of my life now and made a ton of improvements and sacrifice for this and I can’t wait to get in there.
FHTV: What does winning this tournament mean to you?
Rick Hawn: Winning this tournament would mean a lot to me. I was so close last time and most people would say that I should have won that last fight. I just want to get the job done now and put myself at the top of the rankings.
FHTV: Finally, when it comes to separating yourself from the rest of your opponent, define yourself as a fighter?
Rick Hawn: I believe there are not a lot of fighters out there with the all-around experience and dedication I have with the exception of high level wrestlers. I have been an elite athlete for many years now and with that, it brings a ton confidence and drive. Competing at the highest stage and training with the best in the world for many years, definitely separates me from most of the fighters I will come across.
FHTV: Before we wrap up would you like to give any shout outs?
Rick Hawn: I would like to thank all of my sponsors for their support. Zebra mats, Fujisports, Game 7 sports therapy, Skins.net, Green apple cleaners, Strongman security, Deathwish.