At only 23 years old the future looks bright for Alan “The Talent” Belcher. The Biloxi, Mississippi resident recently got married, built a new gym, and is riding a two-fight winning streak in the UFC. This Saturday he will square off against Ricardo “Cachorrao” Almeida at UFC 81: Breaking Point. Alan Belcher sports a (12-4) MMA record and is (3-2) inside the Octagon. I recently caught up with Belcher at the Duke Roufus Gym in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Combat Sports: Your next fight is with Ricardo Almeida. He hasn’t fought in 2 ½ years, he has a pretty decent record and has fought some of the top middleweights. I think out of his 8 wins, 5 have gone to decision. What kind of fight are you expecting? Are you expecting some ring rust from him, a ground fight? It’s obvious you want to keep this fight on the feet.
Alan Belcher: I’m expecting the best Ricardo Almeida. I’m not going to underestimate someone like him, that’s something I’ve learned from experience. I’ll never underestimate anyone again; I’m just expecting his best. I’ll take what I’ve seen and his best attributes and pretend he’s added new things. I know he’s going to be in shape and ultimately he thinks he’s going to be able to take me down and submit me, but who knows, maybe he thinks he can stand with me. I’m preparing for the best Ricardo Almeida.
Ricardo Almeida sports a (8-2) MMA record. Despite not having fought in 2 ½ years Almeida is riding a six-fight winning streak. His UFC record is (1-2) in the Octagon. His most notable wins include Nathan Marquardt, Ikushisa Minowa, and Kazuo Misaki, all of which took place in the Pancrase organization. In Pride, Almeida also holds victories over Akira Shoji and Ryo Chonan. Almeida is also a four-time National Champion in Brazil, a Pan American BJJ Champion and two-time runner up at the ADCC or Abu Dhabi Combat Challenge Submission Grappling Tournament.
In October of 2007 at UFC 77 in Cincinnati, Belcher would fight against Kalib Starnes of Canada. Prior to the bout, Belcher began to train with the former ISKA, WKA, WAKO, WKBF, KICK, and IKF World Champion Kickboxer Duke Roufus. Belcher showed that his new coaching and training were paying dividends and he showed signs of becoming a new fighter. In his fight he opened a hatchet wound like cut on the head of Starnes in round one with his new scrappy style. Doctors allowed the fight to continue into the second round but it was quickly stopped early in the round and declared a TKO victory.
WCS: In your last fight against Kalib Starnes, in terms of style, it looked like we were seeing a new Alan Belcher. I know you were primarily a standup fighter, but we saw the Muay Thai come out. The scrappy look, elbows off the clinch, the jumping knees, was that all from working with Duke (Roufus)?
AB: Yeah, no doubt. I’ve always had those tools and I’ve always been athletic, but working with Duke, he helped me put it all together. He polished me up a lot, he figured out how to push my buttons and turn me on and to do those things in the fight. A lot of people can do just as good as I can in the gym, but it’s all about what you do in competition. The plays you make in the game are the ones that count and practice doesn’t. Duke taught me a few tricks and how to train for a fight. Also, just getting more experience in the UFC helped. It’s all starting to come together for me now. You can expect that every fight I’m going to get better, I’m definitely on the rise.
WCS: Evolution is one of the things I love about this sport. You’ll never have dominant guys for to long, it’s up and down. You’ll have guys like Kendall Grove go on a three-fight winning streak and then drop two. Look at Patrick Cote, he lost like four straight fights and now he’s on a three-fight win streak and he’s just coming around. I enjoy watching the development of fighters. I think we’re just starting to see the TUF 1 guys fully develop. Guys like Kenny Florian, who were so raw when they started have now matured into well-rounded fighters.
AB: In this sport, it’s the total opposite of football. In football, if your born bigger than everybody and you’re pushed, your going to make it into the NFL. If your seven feet tall you can play in the NBA. The work ethic guys have in MMA really shows what hard work will do. Guys like Florian just work their ass off. I hate to use the old cliché, but in boxing, it’s so easy to bet on because 9 times out of 10 the favorite is going to win. In this sport you never know. You never know what happened in his last week of training or what he’s thinking on his way to the ring. Little things make a difference because MMA is such a scrap. You can’t take off a round, you can’t take off a minute. Sometimes in boxing, a boxer will take two or three rounds off. They don’t care, they’ll run for two or three rounds. You have to stay in the fight every minute, every second, and it’s stressful. You get grey hairs while your in there, it’s ridiculous. You saw Kendall Grove last night, I know I’m not the only person that saw this. You saw the way he looked standing across from me before he fought me and then beat my ass. Then you saw the way he looked before he fought Jorge Rivera. He looked like he was going to go to sleep or something. You can never tell, it was the same way with me. The way that I fought Kalib last time and the way I wasn’t even ready to fight against Kendall Grove.
WCS: What about rematches, is there any fight you wish you could do over?
AB: Not really man, because time goes by. If you would have asked me that a few months ago, I would have said, I want to rematch Okami, I want to rematch Kendall, and I want to rematch Marvin Eastman. It’s pointless, when I saw Kendall, I felt for the guy. He’s like a superfreak for 185, he has awesome genes. The people that train him say that he’s a sponge and he’s awesome at everything. He just couldn’t fight, he just couldn’t put it together. He got rocked early, it’s kind of what happened to me. I got stunned early, gassed out and never really recovered. Stuff happens, there is no reason to fight him know.
Yushin Okami, that is guy from a competitive standpoint that I would like to prove to myself that I can last with him and I’ve learned a lot since that fight. Before that fight I think I had probably lost about every first round of every fight I ever fought, whether it was MMA, Kickboxing, or Boxing. I always lost the first round, I was like Bernard Hopkins, just a slow starter. I needed to get beat up a little bit first. Before the fight I was standing in that tunnel and I had butterflies in my stomach and I said to myself: This is what it’s all about, you worked hard to get here and you have to keep your spot here. You heard it in training, it’s better to go out swinging than to get knocked out showing up. I said, I’m going to go out swinging, I’m going to go hard right away and try to knock him out. I got in there and I got locked in on him and I tried to keep the pace up, I kind of died a little bit in the third round. I was just chasing him with punches, I gave him a lot of takedowns and a lot of clean shots, but the experience I have, now I have learned to control the fight.
American Top Team – Missouri
AB: I want to give props to the guys at American Top Team in Missouri: Dustin Denes, Ben Askren, Wade Rome, and Kiko. I don’t consider myself as part of American Top Team because there’s a lot of guys from the Florida school that I could still fight. I just want to say thanks to the guys at that specific gym, they helped me a lot. I’ve been working with a lot of wrestlers.
WCS: I did notice that you had sprawl issues with Okami.
AB: Yeah, I had never trained with a person before that was at that high of a level with takedowns before. That was a rude awakening.
WCS: Especially for your first fight in the UFC.
AB: I got through that fight on heart and athleticism really. Even though I had worked with some wrestlers, I had never worked with anybody that knew how to teach wrestling. That’s the big difference since I began working with guys like Ben Askren. Now I have a lot of answers for anyone trying to take me down. They’re really going to have to work their ass off. If I hit the ground they are really going to have to work to keep me down.
Despite the long layoff, Almeida is a very dangerous opponent for the young Belcher, who is still working on his grappling game. He has also employed Dustin Denes, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt from American Top Team-Missouri to work his BJJ game. Ben Askren, a two-time NCAA division 1 National Champion, has helped Belcher work on his wrestling and Eric Schafer, a UFC vet, has helped him spar and grapple as well.
Belcher is going to need to be ready to go the distance as five of Almeida’s eight wins have gone to decision. The oddsmakers have Belcher listed as a slight underdog, but you can tell Belcher is improving and developing each and every fight. Belcher is going to be looking to stuff any takedown attempts by Almeida and keep the fight on the feet. Belcher will attempt to bring the fight to Almeida, control the pace and the fight and finish the night with a KO or TKO victory.
I’d like to thank Alan “The Talent” Belcher for the interview and wish him well in his fight this Saturday and in his career. Alan Belcher would like to thank his primary sponsor, Premier Fighter.
Nathan Schafer is an MMA writer for a regional based MMA website called Wisconsin Combat Sports @ www.wicombatsports.com