Bellator lightweight Derek Campos currently rides a three-fight win-streak and finds himself back in action tonight (July 14) at Bellator 181, where he’ll face Brandon Girtz, the last man to defeat him. Here, in an exclusive interview with Fighters Only, Campos, 18-6, tells Tony Reid all about his desire to win his upcoming rubber-match with Girtz and also explains the feeling of knocking out Melvin Guillard under the watchful eye of one ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.
Q: You are the main event of the evening at Bellator 181 this Friday night (July 14) and you will be facing Brandon Girtz in a trilogy fight. You each have a win and a loss. How do you see this one playing out?
Derek Campos: I see this one starting off with a bang. Then it will be a grinder. I will grind him out. I am going to do everything I can to break his will. I believe before the end of the fight, before it goes to the judges, it will be finished.
Q: You face Brandon in a semi-last minute fight after (Patricky) Pitbull got bumped to Bellator 183. How did you find out about the change of plans?
DC: My management team approached me with it and told me about the change of plans. They offered me Girtz. I was cool with that. I believe in Bellator and where the promotion is going and what our matchmakers are doing. At the end of the day, if they want me to fight someone, I will do what I need to do and face whoever they need me to face and take care of business.
Q: So no regrets in taking this fight?
DC: (laughs) No.
Q: Where does a win over Girtz puts you in the division?
DC: A win over Girtz will help me continue to climb to the top of the division. I want to be the number one contender. I would like to be in line to face the winner of (Benson) Henderson and Pitbull or face the likes of (Adam) Piccolotti or any of the top lightweights in the division. A win keeps my momentum going and keeps me moving up toward the number on contender spot. I will keep fighting and doing what I need to do to win. That way I can get my title shot.
Q: You are on a nice streak here with three wins in a row, including the highlight stoppage of (Melvin) Guillard. A win over Girtz has to put you in the conversation.
DC: Absolutely. That’s what I plan on doing. I do not want this to go to a decision. I want to make a statement to the rest of the division and the champion.
Q: What has been the fight of your life to this point?
DC: Definitely the Guillard fight. That fight was a very important fight for me. I had lost two in a row for the first time in my career. I just was on the ropes of possibly not being with the promotion anymore. For me, as a fighter, it tested my will and my desire to still be a competitor in the sport of MMA. I did a lot of soul-searching before that fight. Here I am now. All I want to do is become the champion.
Q: One thing we all saw that night was boxing icon Mike Tyson in attendance to see your handiwork firsthand. What did it mean for a superstar likle that to be in attendance to see you perform?
DC: It was crazy. It was a great feeling knowing I was able to go out there and put on a performance that ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was excited to see. You heard his commentary. I was glad I was able to go out there and land a big Mike Tyson-style left hook and put Guillard down. It’s something I will never forget. It’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Q:What fighters inspired you as you were coming up?
DC: When I first took to MMA I always enjoyed watching Rich Franklin compete. I am a big fan of Rich to this day. I always will be. One of the guys I always looked up to was Roger Huerta, too. I really enjoyed watching him in his prime. I watched him scrap. I loved his fight with Leonard Garcia. Those are two of my favorite fighters. Roger because he was in my weight class and Rich because he was such an exciting fighter and because he looks like Jim Carey.
Q: Your Twitter bio says you are a ‘rebel soul driven by a wild heart’. Can you elaborate?
DC: That means I have a rebel attitude. I love to venture out. I love to go toward the unknown. I love to experience life and do things I have never done before. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to sit on the couch and watch TV. The only time I like being at home is when I am with my family. If I was a single guy on my own I would be trying to travel the world and see different things. I want to experience life to the fullest.
(Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)