Lower Burrell's Mazzotta set for Bellator bout
There's an extra sense of excitement around the Mat Factory these days.
Well-known to the Western Pennsylvania mixed martial arts community, the Lower Burrell gym will try to put the national MMA community on notice as it sends three fighters to compete at Bellator 186 Friday at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.
Dom “Honey Badger” Mazzotta will compete in his second Bellator fight, joined by Chris Dempsey and Francis Healy, both of whom are making their Bellator MMA debuts. Mazzotta and Healy will fight on the preliminary card starting at 7 p.m. on Spike. Dempsey competes on the main card that begins at 9 p.m.
Mazzotta (12-2, 0-1 in Bellator), from Lower Burrell, faces off against Matt “SMG” Lozano (8-5) in a bantamweight (135 pounds) bout. Mazzotta is coming off the second defeat of his professional career, as he dropped his Bellator debut to A.J. McKee at Bellator 178. He rattled off nine straight victories beforehand.
“To me, this is a job,” Mazzotta said. “It's what I do to make money. It's another day in the office. Some people have good days at the office and some people have bad days at the office. It just so happens when I have a bad at the office it's on live TV getting knocked out. It's another opportunity for me to show my skill.
“I always said in this sport it's not how you win, it's how you lose. Anybody can win a fight, and not everyone can lose a fight and come back. That's what I'm prepared to do.”
Mazzotta could have a big size advantage against Lozano, who is accustomed to fighting at flyweight (125 pounds). Lozano had a brief stint in Bellator before, going 1-1 with a submission victory.
“That's the thing I'm excited about is to go back down to my weight class (135 pounds),” Mazzotta said. “In regions it's easier to go up and down a weight class, but at this level, to be competitive, I'm going to have to be at 135. I think I'm going to have the size advantage, but I think he will have the speed advantage, so it's give and take. I'm a grappler; everybody knows that. Speed doesn't really matter when you're grappling. I think I'll be able to shut his speed down. I think my size will be an advantage for once.”
Healy's and Dempsey's presence at Bellator 186 adds some extra anxiousness for the Mat Factory.
“This is the coming-out party for the Mat Factory,” Mazzotta said. “In Pittsburgh, we have a core group of guys that train together. We're looking to put Pittsburgh on the map for MMA.”
Issac Greeley, who trains Mazzotta at the Mat Factory, knows this is a crucial fight in his career.
“Bellator believes in Dom,” Greeley said. “They're giving him a favorable opponent, not to say he's a pushover. I think that's it's a fight that Dom is going to come out and get a statement win and let Bellator see what we already know, that he's talented, versatile and tough. We know this, and Bellator wants to see this on their stage.”
Healy (7-4) faces off against newcomer Frankie Buenafuente (0-0) in a featherweight (145 pounds) bout.
“This is a big opportunity for him as well to make it to the next level,” Greeley said. “He's been making some big strides, too.”
Dempsey (11-5), who has Ultimate Fighting Championships experience, squares off against former Penn State national champion wrestler Ed Ruth (3-0) in a middleweight (185 pounds) fight. All three of Ruth's wins came by knockout, including two in the first round.
“I love where Dempsey is at for this,” Greeley said. “He's full time training twice a day. You got to root for guys like Chris Dempsey. He's Pittsburgh through and through.”
D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.