Juan Archuleta prepares to take on the current reigning featherweight and lightweight champion Patricio Pitbull at Bellator 228. It goes down Saturday, September 28th at The Forum in Inglewood, California. One of Pitbull’s two belts will be up for grabs as he defends his 145lb championship. Archuleta gets the initial crack at the featherweight titlist as part of Bellator’s ambitious 16 man Grand Prix. These two bruisers collide in the very first round of the tournament and Archuleta had quite the road to this moment.
Juan Archuleta at Bellator 228
Archuleta is never at a shortage of world-class training partners ahead of the big prizefights. He said, “I always have a great team. I have TJ Dillashaw, Cub Swanson, Saad Awad, Georgi Karakhanyan….S***, I work with Frankie Edgar, Eddie Alvarez, Lance Palmer. I have a slew of guys that I work with.”
Lance Palmer has been especially useful to Archuleta as he readies for this Grand Prix. Palmer has notable experience in PFL and ended up winning in the playoffs after storming through the tournament field.
This has allowed for Archuleta to learn both on a level of physical preparation but also cognitive considerations with fighting in a tournament structure. He said, “We’ve known each other since our college days. So he’s been on a tear, won the tournament, and just picking his mind about tournament fighting. Helping me out and it’s cool.”
A sparring partner within the Grand Prix
Georgi Karakhanyan was mentioned earlier as a sparring partner of Archuleta’s but he’s also a Grand Prix participant. Some might see this as the potential for an awkward teammate vs teammate matchup.
This perception doesn’t seem to be shared by the men in question. Archuleta said, “We’re on track to win a million dollars. This is going to be very helpful for not only my family but his family as well. We’re ok with it. The final goal is obviously the finals for both of us.”
Multiple Divisional Options
Archuleta’s championship aspirations in Bellator are not isolated to one weight class. Kyoji Horiguchi was initially in Archuleta’s crosshairs but a lot of things got in the way of that potential fight being booked.
He stated, “That’s the fight I wanted and they turned it down. They didn’t want to fight me and him getting knocked down shows why. We went with the next title fight which was going to be with Pitbull and they put me in the Grand Prix. So now I’ve got other focuses. I’m focusing on winning my first world title for Bellator.”
Archuleta’s last win came via highlight-reel second-round knockout over Eduardo Dantas. This significant W over a well regarded former Bellator bantamweight champion still positions him favorably at 135 lbs. Also with Horiguchi’s upset loss in Rizin, there’s confusion with the hierarchy at bantamweight. A path was cleared for Juan Archuleta at Bellator 228.
KOTC to Bellator
The crack at Bellator’s featherweight grand prix came at a great time for Archuleta. Relevance across multiple divisions has been a noteworthy theme through Archuleta’s career. He collected gold and proudly defended across four divisions in KOTC before coming to Bellator MMA. He said, “I mean you have to defend ’em. I mean that’s what I did when I was at King of the Cage. Even though the promoter told me I didn’t have to, it was something I wanted to do. It takes a true champion to win a belt and defend it.”
As far as Archuleta’s pursuit of similar championship success in Bellator, he said “That’s what my legacy is. It’d be shameful if I didn’t do that. I was one of the first guys to be multiple weight champion before it all started off. I fought for three world titles before people were getting two. And I took my time doing that. I want this to be my career so I’m taking my time doing it. Building each fight.” His lengthy winning streak and tangible hunger for greatness has resulted in this opportunity for Juan Archuleta at Bellator 228.
Kelly, Ryan, and the Jonas Brothers
Archuleta is also friends with Kelly and Ryan. This has provided him some benefits when doing media rounds as it can result in appearances on that show. Archuleta said, “Kelly and Ryan set that up because they wanted me to get exposure. It was nothing that was forced on me by Bellator. They gave me the opportunity and I’m very thankful for it. It worked out in all favors.”
Archuleta is also buddies with the Jonas Brothers but they’re playing in Texas the night of the title fight. The Jonas Brothers will not be in attendance but good music was a big part of this fight camp. When asked about the tunes Archuleta jams during training, he said “We listen to a lot of house music. A fast pace, that’s why we fight the way we do. TJ, myself, all these guys. You’ve got to have a fast rhythm to go out there and throttle each other.”
Archuleta vs Pitbull is broadcast on DAZN this weekend. This main event title fight tops this stacked event with the main card kicking off at 10 PM ET.