Rich Hale: Not Going To Let His Chance “Slip Through The Fingers”

Bellator Heavyweight Rich Hale (21-4, 1 draw, MMA) joined MMA Fight Corner on Tuesday night fresh off his win at Bellator 79. Hale TKO’d Thiago Santos in the first round of their fight to advance to the heavyweight tournament finals.

Hale awaits the result of this Friday’s Bellator 80 to find out who he will face next. It’ll either be Vinicius Queiroz or Alexander Volkov. Hale said he’s prepared to face anyone, regardless of who wins.

“I don’t have a preference, but I do see that, I call him the “Russian”, I like the little ‘Rocky’ perspective coming into that fight, I definitely see the Russian being able to pull that one off,” Hale said. “He’s got a good record, the only times he’s lost is by submission on the ground. So, Vinicius definitely has an opportunity to take it there. I don’t think he has the striking that’s going to take Volkov out, but I could be wrong. It’s MMA and there’s a lot of surprises that always come.”

In Bellator’s fourth season, Hale made it to the light heavyweight tournament finals, but he lost to Christian M’Pumbu. While he said he’s learned from that fight, he doesn’t know if his previous experience of being in the finals gives him an edge.

“It’s just basically going through the tournament style, obviously if they made it to the finals, I don’t know how much of an advantage is it. You got the feeling of not only making it to the finals, but losing in the finals, and I think that is more advantageous for me because of the simple fact of knowing how close you get, and then, you’re not going to let it slip through the fingers again, it’s not an option.”

Since Cole Konrad officially retired from MMA in September 2012, Bellator’s heavyweight title has remained vacated. Hale shed some light on if that strap could be worn by the winner of this season’s heavyweight tournament.

“They said there’s an option that they could give the belt to the guys that win the tournament, or they could award it to [next season's winner], they may wait til the next season goes through on heavyweight and they’ll have [this season's winner and next season's winner] fight. Which I say, hell, if they’re going to fight anyways, you might as well have the crowned champion making the move on over to Spike and everything. It was nobody else’s decision but Conrad’s to retire and take a step away, which mad respect to him because he was just doing what’s best for him. But realistically, how do you not award the guy that wins the tournament the belt? Business wise I think it’s the smartest decision they can make.”

Follow @heidifang or @fightcorner on Twitter.

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