Richard “Rare Breed” Hale steps into the Bellator cage Friday night in the opening round of the heavyweight tournament against Mike “The Juggernaut” Wessel. The event will mark Hale’s debut in the Bellator heavyweight division after previously competing at light heavyweight.
Hale was set to compete in Bellator’s “Summer Series” light heavyweight tournament but missed weight for his opening round match-up, and was forced to withdraw. With that behind him, he looks to re-invent himself as a quick and flexible heavyweight.
The timing couldn’t be better for Hale as Bellator’s heavyweight division is wide open with the surprise retirement of champion Cole Konrad. But Hale insists that the timing was purely coincidental, as the same day he asked to be in the tournament was the day Konrad announced he was leaving the sport.
Instead the impetus for the decision lay with having to make weight every month in the tournament format.
It wasn’t a case of not wanting to cut down to light heavyweight anymore, it was just a fact of walking around at the top end of the light heavyweight division and making that significant cut to get down there month after month. I have respect for the Bellator tournament format and I can go out and put on better performances for the organization and the fans at heavyweight.
If you look at [the season 4 light heavyweight final], that had nothing to do with my abilities deteriorating, it was just the pure fact of having to make such a significant cut month after month after month that it made it much more difficult to put on the performances that I wanted to. So the decision was made to ultimately to move up to heavyweight.
Hale has always been a large light heavyweight so a shift up should see help him with his energy and endurance. Hale was always known for his flexibility, shown by his highlight-reel inverted triangle submission of Nik Fekete at Bellator 38. But he isn’t counting on that advantage against Wessel, “you don’t have to be very flexible to knock somebody out” he jokes.
With Konrad retiring, the stakes in this tournament are a lot higher than in previous incarnations. Hale is cognizant of the opportunity in front of him and is determined to make the most of it.
Anytime you have a chance to become a world champion in any organization, that’s a huge opportunity and it’s definitely one I want to answer the door for and not let it just go past.
[In one year] I see myself as champion to be perfectly honest with you. I see myself going through this tournament. I see myself in a lot better place overall, having the exposure, having people recognize the skill set, the abilities in someone. I’ve got big goals, big plans.
To hear the rest of the interview, where Hale talks about the Bellator tournament format, the move to Spike TV and more, check it out here. The Hale interview begins at 32:30.