Bellator completes its double bill of weekend action on Saturday, as Joe Taimanglo takes on Darrion Caldwell in the main event.
Taimanglo pulled off a shocking upset in their first meeting at Bellator 159 in July when he choked his opponent unconscious early in the third round after being beaten for the first 10 minutes. He tells Fighters Only’s Tony Reid that he expects a more convincing outcome this time around
Tony Reid: What are your thoughts on being in another main event?
Joe Taimanglo: I am very honored. I worked very hard for this moment. I am happy that Bellator gave me my chance to showcase what I am really about. My past opponents have been good but this is a whole new challenge. Now I have something bigger to achieve. I am always having fun in there but now I have something to really put my signature on with this fight. This fight is going to be all kinds of fun and you will see great things from me. I am super stoked about it.
Why do you always seem to be having a good time in the cage?
I am a veteran of over 30 fights. I have been training in this sport for over 12 years. I have traveled the world to compete in various places. I have learned in gyms all around the world. I am very honored to have that privilege. It has all come together for me now. I have my groove back. I have been putting in the work. I have been waiting for this moment. I had a couple setbacks but I think God just had a greater plan for me. In my recent losses, I needed those moments to revamp my strategy and it also made me work harder. It made me work harder to correct my flaws. It’s been a great journey so far and it’s not stopping yet.
What has the experience of fighting for Bellator been like for you?
I love Bellator. They are like family to me. I always get great vibes when I’m going to my events and competing. The people we have been working with are awesome. I am really pleased to be working with them. To be on the main stage, the main event, for this fight is a dream come true. I have been working really hard for a moment like this. Now that the opportunity is here I am ready to take it. I am ready to have fun.
I hear that you have some thoughts on the Rob Emerson loss that you want to get off your chest.
I believe I got robbed in that fight. In my eyes, if we are talking points, I took all three rounds. I feel like I won four and a half minutes of each round and he would try to steal the round with a flurry in the final few seconds. He didn’t do much damage. There was nothing damaging. Even in the third round, I felt like I kept putting the pressure on him. What surprised me is… I knew he was on something during our fight. At his next fight, he got popped for some performance enhancers. During our fight, I checked one of his kicks and he was limping after the fight. I saw him walking around the hotel the next day and he was fine. It opened my eyes.
I am very natural. I have never taken any performance enhancers or anything to supplement my training. I am natural. I grew up on the islands. I am honest with myself, too. I go in and I work hard. I put in the work. I am a student of the game. I keep my mouth shut and I just put in the work. I use that time and energy that I gain in the gym and absorb it all and I let it go on fight night.
You recently said after a recent fight it was like playing on the playground. Why?
Training is the hard part of our journey going into battle. I put everything in the gym. I bleed, I sweat and I cry sometimes, as my nickname ‘Baby Joe’ would tell you. We put all that hard work in the gym every day to have those few moments to showcase and perform. I believe we are there to have fun. That’s how I look at it. I like to go in there and have a great time. I always have a little smile or grin on my face. I love what I do. It’s my passion and those moments during the fight are my time to shine.
Your signature hair has received more and more attention. Tell us about the mane.
It first came as me just trying to grow my hair out. I always liked growing my hair long. The hard thing about it is when training it’s always a hassle to put it up or tie it up. It always gets in the way. It always gets pulled. Then it’s in my face. It’s in my training partners face. But I love my hair, so I trimmed the top off and kept the back long. I will have a nice new braid for this fight. It came out pretty good. It’s weird because I have been getting more compliments every time I braid my hair. People talk to me more in the gym. Apparently, I am more coachable with my hair braided. If I braid my hair all the time maybe people will be more social with me (Laughs). Hopefully Head and Shoulders looks me up and says: “Hey, we have to get that guy on our team.”
You would be on Troy Polamalu’s team then, right?
Oh, yeah! We are from the islands. I’ll be his little brother in the commercials or something. He has beautiful hair.