Eduardo Dantas wants what was once his, even if it means going through and old friend and former teammate to get it.
The 27-year-old Nova Uniao standout will challenge Marcos Galvao for the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship in the Bellator 150 headliner on Friday at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Dantas held the 135-pound title for more than two years, from April 3, 2012 until Oct. 10, 2014.
“Dudu” already holds a victory over Galvao, having knocked out the two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion in the second round of their Bellator 83 encounter. However, past results do not mean the rematch will be a carbon copy of their first fight or that it will be any easier. Dantas admits much has changed since the two met a little more than three years ago.
Both men have improved and added tools to their respective arsenals. Neither fighter has been overly active during their time apart, with Dantas fighting three times and Galvao entering the cage on four occasions. The challenger believes it foolhardy to think anything from their initial battle would translate to the rematch.
“It was a great fight, very exciting,” Dantas told Sherdog.com. “I was the better man that night. At first, it was kind of hard fighting him because he was my friend and I don’t want to see my friend get hurt or knocked out, but I did what I had to do. I know more now that I need to put our friendships aside for this next fight, but when I think about that [first] fight, I know I shouldn’t because we both have evolved so much. We are not the same fighters.”
Dantas did not shy away from the fact that he and Galvao used to train together in Brazil and were good friends for a time. While no bad blood exists between the two, he admits they have grown apart over the years. They now live in different cities and train with different teams, and Dantas concedes that the separation makes it much easier to inflict damage on Galvao.
“Marcos is a great person,” he said. “We have trained together and I consider him a good friend. He’s a very funny guy. He’s a great fighter. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I’ve known him a long time, but when we fight, all that is out the window. We both have to do what needs to be done, and unlike the first time, I will have no problems in my head about hurting him.”
At stake is the championship Dantas once possessed. “Dudu” captured the 135-pound title when he choked Zach Makovsky unconscious at Bellator 65 in 2012. He successfully defended the crown twice, first against Galvao and then against Anthony Leone, before ceding the throne in a unanimous decision loss to Joe Warren at Bellator 128. Dantas has been chasing the championship ever since. According to the 27-year-old Andre Pederneiras protégé, losing the title brought much more powerful emotions than winning it did.
“When I won the title, it was the greatest feeling in the world,” Dantas said. “I never fought better; I felt like the greatest fighter ever. I never wanted to lose that feeling, but when I lost to Joe Warren, the agony was terrible. I’ve never felt anything like it before in my life. It was more severe of a feeling, and it’s something I promised to myself that I would never have to feel ever again.”
Dantas in his rematch with Galvao will get his opportunity to recapture the championship and the exhilaration that goes along with winning it. Galvao laid claim to the belt in March, when he submitted Warren with a second-round kneebar at Bellator 135. Though Dantas remains focused on Galvao and reclaiming promotional gold, the loss to Warren still burns in his belly. He would welcome the chance to face the self-professed “Baddest Man on the Planet” a second time.
“I want nothing more in the world than to fight Joe Warren again,” said Dantas, who rebounded to take a unanimous decision from Mike Richman in May. “I want to get revenge on him and get my title back at the same time. I would like nothing more than for that to happen, but I have to be smart.”
As such, he has placed Galvao in the crosshairs.
“I know that the only fight I can think about and the only man I need to worry about is Galvao, and he has my title,” Dantas said. “I can’t even think about Joe Warren right now. After I beat Marcos, then yes, I can think of Joe Warren.”