The interim bantamweight title is on the line in the Bellator bantamweight grand prix bout between Juan Archuleta and Raufeon Stots, with both men planning to capture the gold, then run the table to win the tournament and earn a shot at reigning 135-pound champ Sergio Pettis.
Pettis was due to take part in the tournament, but injury forced him out of the grand prix lineup, with Bellator deciding to install an interim title. That belt will progress through the grand prix, with the eventual tournament winner holding the interim strap, the grand prix title and a cool $1 million prize cheque.
There’s been plenty of back-and-forth banter between Archuleta and Stots heading into Saturday night’s fight, with Archuleta taking exception to Stots’ pre-fight trash talk tactics.
“He’s a bully. That’s all I have to say,” he told reporters at the pre-fight media day.
“He’s a guy that I definitely don’t want my kids or any of my family members looking up to because that’s the definition of a bully. In today’s day and age, too many people get away with running their mouth.
“Just like Mike Tyson had to beat the hell out of someone for pestering him, I’m going to do the same thing to Raufeon on fight night.”
Stots isn’t taking the pre-fight trash talk personally, however, as he explained on media day. But he said he plans on imposing himself on his opponent on fight night, just as he has imposed himself on him with his talk in the lead-up to the fight.
“Juan feels like I’m picking on him or whatever. I saw that he called me a bully or something like that,” he said.
“That’s kind of what I want to do in the fight. I’m literally taking your lunch money at this fight. I’m going to be a bully in the fight. I’m not a bully in real life but that’s kind of how I’m approaching this fight.
“I feel like Juan Archuleta is mentally weak. He’s a strong individual, but I want to take advantage of that, so I’ve been picking at him the whole fight camp.
“And in the fight, I’m going to continue to pick on him for five rounds.”
One thing the pair certainly seem to agree on is that the fans are in for a treat on Saturday night.
“The fans are really excited to see me and Juan fight because we possess a lot of the same skills,” said Stots.
“He brings the action. I bring the action. We both have good cardio. We’re both good wrestlers and strikers. I think it’s a fun fight on paper.”
“I think both of us are definitely willing to bring a fight,” agreed Archuleta.
“We’re two fan favourites who come in and fight. We’re definitely putting everything on the line to win this title for our families and win this Grand Prix.
“I’m expecting the best Raufeon come fight night and he better be expecting the best of me because I’m coming in and I know I’m walking away as the champ.”