Road to Bellator 203: Press Conference
14th of July, Centrale del Tennis in Rome. This is the location chosen by Bellator for their debut in the capital of Italy. A historic location for Italian sports, which has hosted the Olympics, Tennis, Boxing and many more events. And in July it will be the stage for MMA with Bellator 203.
To present the historic event a fantastic location was chosen for the press conference: the Civita Terrace of Piazza Venezia in Rome.
With the backdrop of the Altare della Patria and the Coliseum in the distance, Carlo Di Blasi (Italian promoter for Bellator), Scott Coker (Bellator president), Alessio Sakara and Giorgio Petrosyan presented the mixed event of MMA and Kickboxing which will highlight the Roman summer.
The main topic of the press conference was the debut of the promotion in Rome and what this represents for Italian MMA, and Combat Sports in general. Scott Coker, Bellator president, explains:
3 YEARS AGO I STARTED TO COLLABORATE WITH BELLATOR WHICH IS AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL BRAND AND IS KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. MY SECOND YEAR AS PRESIDENT OF THIS COMPANY WAS THE YEAR IN WHICH WE DECIDED TO SPREAD OUR WINGS AND TAKE FLIGHT. THE FIRST THING THAT I DID WAS TO CONTACT MY COLLEAGUES HERE IN ROME AND IN PARTICULAR CARLO DI BLASI. WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN IN TURIN AND FLORENCE AND WE HAD A GOOD TURNOUT SO AFTER ROME THERE WILL BE MORE EVENTS IN ITALY. THIS EVENT WILL BE BROADCAST IN THE US WITH A 5-HOUR TAPE-DELAY AND IN 160 COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD. IT WILL BE AN EVENT WHICH WILL HAVE A WORLDWIDE IMPACT.
Carlo Di Blasi reiterated his words:
I THINK THAT THIS EVENT WILL CHANGE SOMETHING IN THE WORLD OF COMBAT SPORTS BECAUSE THE SUCCESS IN AN IMPORTANT CITY LIKE THE CAPITAL OF ITALY SHOULD REPRESENT THE LAUNCH OF THIS GREAT SPORT IN THIS COUNTRY LIKE IT HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST IN THE UNITED STATES. THE HIGH-LIGHT WILL BE NOT ONLY THE PRESENCE OF GREAT ATHLETES, BUT ALSO THE LOCATION. BELLATOR WILL BE AT THE CENTRALE DEL TENNIS FOR THE FIRST TIME. THE REASON BEHIND THE CHOICE OF THIS LOCATION IS OUR DESIRE TO FILL IT LIKE WE ALREADY DID IN THE PAST IN TURIN AND FLORENCE. ON THE 14th OF JULY IT WILL BE A SPECTACLE WITHIN THE SPECTACLE, BESIDES THE FIGHTS, TO SEE THAT LOCATION FILLED WITH FANS WILL BE EXCITING EVEN FOR OUR ATHLETES WHO WILL BE CHEERED BY THEIR FRIENDS AND TEAMMATES. WE CHOSE THIS LOCATION BECAUSE THE IMAGES WILL BE BROADCAST IN AMERICA AND WE WANT TO SHOW WHAT KIND OF PLACES WE HAVE HERE. IT WASN’T A COINCIDENCE TO HAVE PICKED FLORENCE, TURIN AND ROME. ALL ART CITIES, ALL CITIES IN WHICH OUR HISTORY, THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY EMERGES AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL.
Alessio Sakara, one of the top athletes of Italian and Roman MMA, also wanted to express his thoughts about the event in his home town:
I AM SUPER-HAPPY TO BE HERE. I WANT TO PUT ON A SHOW FOR MY FANS. THE LAST TIME THAT I FOUGHT IN ROME NO ONE EVEN KNEW THIS DISCIPLINE, IT WAS 2001 OR 2002, AFTER THAT I ALWAYS FOUGHT ABROAD. THIS IS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME, TO FIGHT IN ROME IN FRONT OF MY FRIENDS, MY FANS, AND MY FAMILY. A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO SEE ME BECAUSE I ALWAYS FOUGHT AROUND THE WORLD. I COME FROM A POOR NEIGHBORHOOD, A LOT OF MY FRIENDS COULDN’T EVEN AFFORD THE TICKET TO COME SEE ME IN FLORENCE (THE CLOSEST PLACE WHERE I FOUGHT), THIS TIME THEY CAN JUST DRIVE TO THE VENUE AND I AM SO HAPPY THEY WILL BE ABLE TO SEE ME LIVE. I HOPE THE TURNOUT WILL BE EVEN BIGGER THAN THE ONES WE HAD IN TURIN AND FLORENCE
Carlo Di Blasi also wanted to clarify that this is not the point of arrival but a starting point. That he hopes to come back next year to do another event in Rome:
THIS IS DAY ONE OF OUR JOURNEY, AT THE MOMENT WE HAVEN’T HAD ANY PROBLEMS BUT FROM NOW ON WE WOULD LIKE TO BUILD SOME COLLABORATIONS. WE WANTED TO INTRODUCE OURSELVES FIRST OF ALL, THAT’S WHY WE ARE DOING A PRESS CONFERENCE 3 MONTHS BEFORE THE EVENT. WE WANT TO SHOW WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE REPRESENT AND HOW IMPORTANT THIS EVENT WILL BE ON AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL FOR THE CITY OF ROME. ROME IS FAMOUS ALL OVER THE WORLD, IT DOESN’T NEED US TO BE KNOWN BUT THIS EVENT WILL AIR IN 160 COUNTRIES. WE HAVE RECEIVED A COUPLE OF INSTITUTIONAL INVITATIONS WHICH WE ARE PROUD OF AND WE WOULD LIKE TO CONTINUE THIS JOURNEY. OUR DREAM IS TO FILL A STADIUM ONE DAY AND MAYBE ONE DAY WE WILL BE ABLE TO DO IT. AT THE END OF THE DAY WHEN WE STARTED WE DID SHOWS WITH 500 PEOPLE IN GYMS, AND TODAY WE ARE DOING HUGE NUMBERS. THIS IS OUR STARTING POINT AND WE WOULD LIKE TO WORK WITH THOSE WHO WISH TO CREATE GREAT EVENTS IN ROME. WE ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR SPONSORS, WE HAVE SEVERAL NEGOTIATIONS GOING ON BUT WE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A MAIN SPONSOR WHICH REPRESENTS THE CITY.
Afterwards, the topic shifted to the show itself. The main events were revealed while other matches will be revealed in the weeks before the event. Di Blasi explained how the evening will take place:
THE EVENING IS ORGANIZED IN A VERY SIMPLE MANNER. FIRST THE RING FOR KICKBOXING IN WHICH THE STAR WILL BE GIORGIO PETROSYAN AND THEN THE RING WILL DISAPPEAR AND FROM ABOVE THE CAGE WILL BE LOWERED AND TAKE THE PLACE OF THE RING. ALESSIO SAKARA WILL FIGHT AGAINST JAMIE SLOANE FROM ENGLAND AT 205 LBS. AND THERE WILL ALSO BE A WORLD TITLE AT STAKE BETWEEN PATRICIO PITBULL AND DANIEL WEICHEL. THE OTHER MATCHES WILL BE ANNOUNCED IN THE NEXT MONTHS BUT WE CAN ANTICIPATE THAT THERE WILL BE OTHER FIGHTERS FROM ROME ON THE CARD.
The star of the Kickboxing portion of the card will be Giorgio Petrosyan (record: 100 Wins–2 Losses–2 Draws–1 No Contest) who will face Belorussian Chingiz Allazov, a match that has been talked about for years and which will happen on the 14th of July at the Centrale del Tennis. The Italian-Armenian champion addressed a question on his possible transition to MMA, his answer was:
I AM NOT INTERESTED IN MMA BECAUSE IT’S A DIFFERENT SPORT. I DECIDED TO DO ONE THING WELL AND THAT’S WHAT I’M DOING, LIKE I HAVE SHOWN THROUGHOUT THE YEARS.
Finally Alessio Sakara talked about his match, his opponent and what his game-plan will be:
I HAVE BEEN PREPARING SINCE IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT BELLATOR WOULD COME TO ROME, FOR ABOUT A MONTH AND A HALF. I WENT TO THE STATES LIKE I ALWAYS DO FOR THE BEGINNING OF MY TRAINING CAMP. MY OPPONENT IS A STRIKER, HE HAS HEAVY HANDS AND THIS IS THE KINDS OF FIGHT THAT I LIKE. HE’S A STRIKER, I’M A STRIKER AND EVERYONE KNOWS THAT I LIKE TO KO MY OPPONENTS AND THAT’S WHAT THE FANS LIKE TOO, THAT’S WHAT THEY COME TO SEE. IF SOMETHING SHOULD GO WRONG I MIGHT TAKE MY OPPONENT TO THE GROUND AND USE MY BJJ. BUT FOR SURE I WILL GO INTO THE MATCH TO KO MY OPPONENT. I AM HAPPY TO BE BACK FIGHTING AT 205 LBS. AT LEAST I WON’T HAVE TO SUFFER LIKE LAST TIME (LAUGHS).
You can watch the complete video of the press conference here
After the press conference Alessio Sakara was kind enough to take time to answer a few of our questions, and we are very grateful for that.
MMA TODAY: The beginning of 2018 seems to have been a boom for Italian MMA, with so many events taking place. What do you think of the Italian scene and what do you think that this Bellator event can do for Italian MMA?
ALESSIO SAKARA: The Italian scene is growing a lot, as I’m happy to see. There are a lot of athletes who fight around the world and are performing well. Bellator is coming here, so finally in Rome people will be able to see a high-level event. I hope that this can help more kids get into our sport. Because our sport is not about violence. Our sport requires a lot of discipline, that’s why I’m against trash-talking. Because it’s already difficult to get people to accept us, if you add trash-talking on top of that… I understand the desire to make money, but this is martial arts and our sport should remain like it has always been: about discipline, respect and honor.
MT: Then we won’t ask you a question about what happened last week in New York (the Conor McGregor incident at the Barclays Center before UFC 223).
AS: No, because that was a real disgrace and I feel that the promoters had it coming because when you play with fire you are bound to get burned.
MT: You have stated that you want to stop fighting within the next 5 years. What do you expect from these 5 years?
AS: Sure, because then I will be 42 years old. I’ve always said that I want to fight for this organization until the end of my career and be ranked among the best in the world. That’s my objective, to fight against the best in the world for this organization and to still have a lot more fights.