Paul Bradleyâ€™s fared pretty well during his athletic career when it comes to competing in tournaments, as he was a two-time NCAA Div. II wrestling All-American and three-time placewinner at the Big Tenâ€™s.
Now, Bradley will enter into the Bellator season 10 welterweight tournament beginning this Friday night at Bellator 112.
Bradley (21-5) faces Nathan Coy in the main prelim fight that streams live online. The bout was moved into the tourney quarterfinals after a series of injuries and other issues knocked three fighters out.
In 2003, the Alliance MMA fighter placed second at 184 pounds at the Big Ten Conference meet while competing for the University of Iowa. He earned a fourth and a fifth at the NCAA meet before entering into the world of MMA.
The contest with Coy will actually be a rematch, as Bradley scored a split decision over him in 2009.
â€œI have put a strong emphasis on my conditioning,â€ said Bradley, during an interview with FightLine. â€œOur previous fight five years ago was a three-round war.â€
Bradley has tested himself through many important decisions already in his life, and the 30-year-old Iowa native opened up on those matters.
How has training for the Coy fight gone and what did you do differently if anything?
â€œItâ€™s been good. Iâ€™d be lying if I said it has went anything but smoothly. I suffered a cut early in training camp, so that forced me to switch things up a bit.
Shortly after that, I managed to pick up an infection and was battling that for a bit. Thankfully I got through that and am currently healthy and ready to go.
I didnâ€™t really change anything for this camp other than I put a strong emphasis on my conditioning. Also, I worked with a lot of southpaws.â€
What are your biggest concerns regarding Coy?
â€œHe is a tough wrestler like myself, an â€˜All-American for Oregon State,â€™ so I have to be ready to defend takedowns and keep myself off the cage.
I also need to stay on the outside of his right hand and land fast combinations while mixing in kicks and takedowns.â€
Who are your main coaches and training partners at Alliance MMA?
â€œI sparred a lot with Johnny Case from Iowa, who is a southpaw and the same height as Coy.
My head coach is Eric Del Fierro, kickboxing is Tony Palafox, boxing Adrian Melendrez, grappling Neil Melanson and George Castro for strength and conditioning.
These guys have been instrumental in getting me ready for this fight.â€
Why did you decide to pursue a career in MMA?
â€œI guess I decided shortly after my wrestling career had just finished. I had always thought about becoming a fighter after wrestling and dabbled in training at Pat Miletichâ€™s school.
I took a job as an assistant coach for wrestling at Indiana University after I finished my degree and began commuting from Bloomington to Indianapolis to train at Damage Inc. four days a week.
After spending a year coaching in Indiana, I took the head assistant coaching position at the University of Buffalo in New York and trained at Lockport MMA. It was here I made the decision to become a full-time fighter.
Shortly after I arrived, The Ultimate Fighter reality show contacted me and asked if I wanted to be on the next middleweight season. It was at this point I was forced to resign my position at Buffalo and therefore became a full-time fighter.
I never wanted to be that guy thinking â€˜what ifâ€™ so I rolled the dice and went on the show.â€
How did things go on TUF 7? Did you make the right decision?
â€œAt the time, I wasnâ€™t happy with my decision at all. Shortly after being on the show I was forced to go home with a skin infection.
I went back to Buffalo with no job or any money. I got through it and in hindsight, it forced me to put all my eggs into one basket and become a full-time fighter.
In 2010 you fought former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold. What did you think of him at the time?
â€œI knew Rockhold was tough back then and could do great things. He has been the only fighter to stop me, but he has gone on to great success since then.
That wasnâ€™t a fight I was particularly keen on taking in the first place since it was up a weight class to middleweight and Iâ€™m a welterweight. My back was against the wall at that point, though, and I hadnâ€™t fought in over six months so I accepted.
Either way, it was my decision and he has since gone on to be a world champion and a Top-10 fighter in the world in the middleweight division. It was a tough loss at the time for me, but I learned a lot from the experience.â€
It had been a year since you fought when you took the fight with Karl Amoussou. How important was that fight for you?
â€œIt was very important. I had a year layoff since my previous fight, which was a crappy split decision loss to Valdir Arajuo in Florida. It was one of the hardest years I have ever dealt with in my life, dealing with injuries, working a dead end job to make ends meet and overall dealing with depression issues.
At the time, I just felt like there was no way out of my current situation and sitting on a loss for a whole year just killed me.
When Bellator called and offered me the Amoussou fight in my home state, it gave me a new sense of life. I immediately accepted and shortly after quit my job and focused purely on the fight.
It was the best decision I ever made. Fighting in front of my friends and family gave me extra motivation. It has been one of my greatest memories to date in my career.â€
Youâ€™ve competed for the UFC (fights vs. Rafael Natal, Mike Pierce in 2011), Strikeforce and now Bellator. What are your general thoughts on Bellator?
â€œBellator has been great. Althought it is a smaller production right now with fewer employees then the UFC and Strikeforce, they do a good job of putting everything together.
I am very happy to be currently fighting for them.â€
Are you pleased with the decision to have your fight with Coy included in the welterweight tournament?
â€œIt has always been my goal to be a world champion in Bellator since signing with them. This will be no easy tournament but it does bring me one step closer to my goal of becoming a world champion.
I am pretty happy my opponent wasnâ€™t changed. Coy is a southpaw and thatâ€™s what I have trained for the past few months. Going back to orthodox was doable but Iâ€™m just happy thatâ€™s not the case. It also would be crunch time on footage if I had been given a new opponent.â€
Where do you hope to see yourself by the end of 2014?
â€œThe Bellator welterweight champion.
I have dedicated my life to this sport and have moved across the country countless times to pursue this career. It hasnâ€™t been easy, but it if was, it wouldnâ€™t be me.â€
You can follow Bradley on Twitter and Facebook.