Recently signing for Bellator, Kevin Casey gets a chance at redemption after an underwhelming UFC run which was full of bad luck and frustrating moments inside the octagon. Two no contests in four fights would ruin his chance to show what he had on one of the biggest stages in MMA but now at Bellator 170, Casey will fight Keith Berry and he intends on showing everyone that he belongs at the top level of the sport.
Speaking to MMA Plus, Casey revealed that life at Bellator is better than most imagine and truly believes the gap between the companies is continuing to close with Bellator being able to offer a completely different experience and variety of perks that are unavailable to those fighting for the UFC.
Asked about how he currently feels about his immediate future under the Bellator banner, “King” Casey had only good things to say about the positive atmosphere surrounding his new working environment.
“I feel great. I feel this is a new opportunity for me and I really feel Bellator are stepping up their game and making themselves real competition coming up, you know at the same time we are free over at Bellator to have our own sponsorships, said Casey.
“Its created a new excitement for me moving forward, having different companies show their interest and working with me getting myself acquainted with different brands and things of that nature. I think it’s great for us as fighters to be able to show some individuality out there and show people something different. Not to have some cookie cutter robot type of feel that the Reebok logo gives us.”
Asked about how the controversial Reebok sponsorship deal was changing the attitude of fighters about moving from the UFC to other promotions, the Middleweight was very vocal that for some, it can make a massive difference to the amount of money they can earn.
“I think it’s huge. I wasn’t the guy making a large amount of money off sponsorships, but some of those guys were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and now you have Bellator who have the production value and they’re giving the fighters the exposure, revealed Casey.
“You have top level guys who are in the organisation and Scott Coker has just really put the energy behind the machine and things are just looking so promising. It’s not a step down anymore to compete in a different organisation because now you’ve got Bellator who are doing big things.”
Talking further about the differences between the way fighters are treated by the different promotions, the Inglewood native was quick to praise his current boss didn’t hold back when expressing his feelings about his previous employer.
“I knew Scott Coker when he ran Strikeforce and my experiences with him have always been really positive,” said Casey.
“It feels family oriented like they care about the fighters. Sometimes at UFC you get the feeling they don’t care about you, you get the feeling you’re just a number, a number connected to a name and you know it’s just a machine chewing people up and spitting them out.”
Casey would be very critical of the UFC’s handling of talent and attitude towards the fighters on their roster.
“I’ve seen talented guys over there get cut, and you know it’s like you have talented guys and I consider myself to be one of them, I got a lot of opportunities and UFC treated me good as far as giving me opportunities so I can’t complain in the regard but sometimes it’s the overall vibe over there like we don’t really need you, they just chew you up and spit you out.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s clash at Bellator 170 with Keith Berry, Casey can’t wait to make his promotional debut in his hometown of Inglewood, California and believes that the location makes the fight that bit more special to him.
“I am very excited to be fighting in Bellator 170, you know we got Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz as the main event and all eyes are going to be on this. We have Alek Gracie, we have Paul Daley and the list goes on of the high-level guys that will be fighting in this event So for me to make a transition and jump back into a big show and a big event like this is just very exciting.
“You know Inglewood is my birth town and where I am originally from, you know I literally lived across from The Forum growing up. It just feels like everything has gone full circle in my career and I’m very happy with the level that I’ve been able to fight at in my career.”
Talking about his opponent, Casey thinks Berry will be eager to prove himself against a name opponent like himself and refuses to underestimate the journeyman fighter.
“I don’t feel Keith will come from a long layoff like he’s had if he wasn’t more than prepared so I expect to be fighting a completely different fighter and a motivated fighter. He’s going to be coming in to try and take advantage so I’ve trained hard and I am ready to fight anyone on the January 21st.”
Casey discussed how he has changed his training camp and feels better than ever thanks to a new strength and conditioning program as well as tweaks to his game. Needing time to settle into these new routines, the Californian believes we will see a massive improvement compared to the fighter we got to see in the octagon.
“My training has been phenomenal for this camp. The biggest change in my camp has been with my strength and conditioning coach. I’m working with Taylor Lansdale out of Toluca Lake who also coaches Alan Jouban, I feel like my body has completely changed and my energy level is higher and the level of professionalism that he’s brought in and the motivation that he’s brought to my strength and conditioning has been night and day.
“Technically I’ve always had a high level of jujitsu and good striking. I worked with the Gracie family for so many years and I’ve trained with high-level grapplers for so long, you know Gracie always worked my corner. I’ve worked on some training with Kron Gracie for this camp and I’ve also been working with Alek Gracie and Tim Johnson over at Black House. I’ve put so much hard work and effort into this”
“When I look back at that last run there’s so many things that worked against me. I fought injured, I took fights too soon and I wasn’t ready for certain things and we don’t want to make excuses as fighters because that’s not what we do. My rhythm wasn’t there I had the long one-year layoff on my return.”
A frustrated Casey would continue, “I just feel like I wasn’t able to get my rhythm but then I had made changes in my training camp. That will take me some time for me to get used to and I was taking that into my fights, so now I have time for everything to gel and to work together and I feel everything has settled down and now I will be able to perform to my full capability.”
Being a friend of the Gracie Family for many years, nobody was better to ask about MMA’s hottest rising prospect Kron Gracie than the man who trained with him for years as he grew up and developed the aspects of his game. Casey would be a regular training partner of Kron and was quick to lavish praise on the 28-year-old’s performance in Rizin this past month.
“Me and Kron were training partners for over ten years, so I trained with Kron like every day at a certain point and we work a lot together so I owe Kron a lot,” said Casey. “We haven’t trained as much in recent years but we’ve started training again recently.
“I tell you, Kron, he has unlimited potential, he’s been working a lot with the Diaz brothers and working on his boxing and taking himself out of his comfort zone in order to evolve. You know his grappling and ground game is probably the best in Jiu Jitsu or in the game today and he showed that in only his third fight. Fighting an experienced veteran like Tatsuya Kawajiri and going out there and smothering his game and dominating. Kron has the right attitude and has the desire to be a champion and I expect him to be a champion.”
Towards the end of our conversation, talk would turn to what the future may hold for Kevin Casey and there’s one fight he really want’s before his career comes to an end.
“I would love at some point to get a rematch with Ikuhisa Minowa you know the Japanese fighter who I fought in my very first professional fight and before he retires I would like to get that fight back.”