Gegard Mousasi Talks About Moving to Bellator
Photos by David Meulenbeld


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Gegard Mousasi Talks About Moving to Bellator

We visited the Dutch middleweight in Amsterdam to talk about the big news.

**This interview **first appeared on VICE Sports Nederland.

The MMA world was shook on Monday, when Bellator announced the signing of Gegard Mousasi, one of the UFC's best middleweights. The Dutch fighter, with roots in Iran and Armenia, was regarded as a potential champion, but when contract negotiations with the UFC went south, Bellator made a move.

We visited him just days after the announcement, during a training session with legendary coach Bert Kop at Kops Gym Team in Amsterdam to talk about his new future.


VICE Sports: So why did you decide to move to Bellator?
Gegard Mousasi: Of course it's a financial choice, but it also has to do with freedom. Now I'm a big fish in a small pond, but it was the other way around at the UFC. And at Bellator I will finally fight for the title.

Do you think you will be treated differently at Bellator?
I feel more respected at Bellator. UFC is all about business and is very American. You have to adapt to that. The UFC focuses on entertainment, but that's not what fighting is about. It is not a concert. I think it will start to work against the UFC if they don't put the best fighters against the best fighters. Maybe they will get that at UFC in a couple of years, but until then Bellator is the better choice.

You can also choose your own sponsors now, right?
Well, I don't really need sponsors. I don't really care about it either.

So money was not the priority?
Well, it is important. I don't have kids yet, but I do want to be able to take good care of my family now. And my children in the future.

You are very close with your family, right? Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Iran, my parents are Armenian. We fled from Iran to the Netherlands when I was eight years old. We had a lot of family and friends in Iran, so it was hard to leave, especially for my parents. But we managed to settle well in the Netherlands, after a year in refugee camps. But I understood it was a process. I am happy now and appreciate the environment I get to live in.


You are very sober about this.
I don't want to tell sad stories about myself. We may not have had a lot to spend when I grew up, but my childhood was good. The public likes to hear a dramatic story. They want a star to rise, have a meltdown and then return to greatness. Very American. Or you get media coverage when you act like a fool, by hitting your opponent at the weigh-in. You are regarded as boring when you're just a good sportsman. People talk about you when you step out of line, like Jon Jones who did coke. That's what people want to hear.

You once said that you don't like to talk to media, but you are talking freely now. Has that changed over time?
Well, it depends on the journalists [ laughs]. And the mood I'm in, of course. The attention can be good, but it's annoying sometimes. Especially when they ask me to do all kinds of things, like asking me to run in front of the camera a thousand times for a one second shot. Then I ask myself: what am I doing with my time? But that's promotion.

What do you parents think about you success?
They are very happy and proud. It took a lot of time to get to the point I'm at now. I still feel underrated sometimes, even though I have proven myself. I may have lost some fights as well, but I've been at the highest level for years now. I am sure I would win now if I fought the current UFC champion Bisping or the interim champion Whittaker. The bookies would rate me as the favorite. I don't know why I'm underrated. Maybe it's my character.


What's wrong with you character?
When you constantly claim you are the best, people start to believe that. I see that happen a lot. You can convince a lot of people by talking, even if that has nothing to do with your actual performances. But that's not my thing. I do believe I am one of the best out there, I'm in the top four, but that's different. I just keep doing my own thing.

Do you get media training for these kinds of things?
No, maybe a pep talk every now and then. I think you mainly have to be yourself and then people will like you—or not. You can say: I respect my opponent, have trained well and want to fight. But that's boring. So now I say: he's bad and I'm gonna knock him out. People like that better. The UFC started to push me with a media tour in England and Singapore, which helped. I was more boring in my old interviews than I am now.

We even saw a UFC clip in which you tell jokes.
I had to do that for UFC. They thought it was funny, but I just read what they wrote. I thought it was kind of dumb, actually.

We thought you were hilarious though. Is that not your type of humor?
I don't know what type of humor I like. Well, I like it when it's over the top or sarcastic. I like Dumb & Dumber, Get Hard and Stepbrothers. Will Ferrell is hilarious.

Do you have a formal education outside of fighting?
I had to repeat classes all the time or was kicked out of school. I am not a dumb person, but I had difficulties with concentrating. I studied surveillance, sales and sports movement. I wasted about six years on all that. Studying just isn't my thing. I don't like it. I always wanted to perform in sports. Even though a Plan B besides sports is important.


Do you have a Plan B?
It's not necessary anymore, but I did invest a lot in real estate in Leiden. I've been doing that with my brother since I was 21-years-old. I don't know how many properties we have at this point, my brother runs this business. He does everything, I just sign the contracts.

Do you watch what you eat outside of the gym?
When I'm not fighting I eat everything: Burger King, McDonald's, pizza, ice cream, chocolate. But when I have to train, it's chicken, more chicken, steak and such. But you have to enjoy life as well, so I think junk food should still be possible. It doesn't matter that much if I eat a Big Mac or some chocolate ice cream now. I can take it [ laughs].

How did you first meet your coach Bert Kops?
I came to this gym to learn more about fighting and wrestling. Since then, he became a good friend. Bert is a great guy. You have to have a good bond with your coach, otherwise it doesn't work in the long run.

We saw a clip on Instagram of you, Bert and some other people partying in a hotel room. That looked like a good time.
Yeah, we go drink at the hotel after I win a fight. I am not picky when it comes to alcohol. Vodka, wine, it doesn't matter. We just have to get drunk.

Can handle more booze than Bert?
We never did a competition. But I can take a lot.