Matched up against Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas, Higo ended up losing his first MMA bout in almost five years. Not only that, he also failed to make the 135-pound weight limit for the first time in his pro career, turning the headliner of April’s Bellator 177 event into a non-title bout.
The conditions weren’t optimal either. Not only did Higo have little time to prepare for his most important fight yet, he had to balance training with a busy schedule of classes he taught to make ends meet.
Still, Higo put on a competitive scrap; one of the judges saw it his way. And while his sponsorship situation is still not exactly ideal, the extra money made from his first Bellator outing ensured better training conditions for next month’s second one.
“I’m just training now, and I’m no longer teaching classes,” Higo told MMAjunkie. “I’m feeling better, better-trained. I’m getting more time to rest. I’m feeling very good – great, really. A lot different than in that fight.”
Set for an Oct. 6 meeting against Joe Taimanglo (23-7-1 MMA, 6-3 BMMA) at Bellator 184, which airs live on Spike from WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., Higo (17-2 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) certainly has few reasons to feel encouraged ahead of his new chance.
First, there’s how well he managed to perform against an opponent who many thought he didn’t stand a chance against.
“Losses are never welcome,” Higo said. “But it was a setback that showed me I am capable of going toe to toe with anyone in this division in Bellator. I arrived fighting toe to toe with the champion.”
It gave him a reason for optimism after the title loss (via Instagram):
There’s also the weight. While it’s not usually a big problem for him, Higo was a lot heavier than usual ahead of his last outing. Now, two weeks out, the much longer preparation time – paired with some changes in the training itself – ensured that he’s already lighter than he was going into fight week then.
And, of course,, there’s the matchup. As a record that features five finishes in his six most recent wins shows, Higo is aggressive. And Dantas, who’s been successfully defending his belt with decisions, didn’t seem that interested in the type of bout that Higo wanted to put on.
With Taimanglo, however, the Brazilian bantamweight hopes things are different.
“It’s a fight that I wanted,” Higo said. “It will be quite interesting because he likes to go after the fight. And I like that too. I want to erase the image of that monotonous fight with Dudu.
“I wanted the fight, I went for it, but he ran around the entire fight, basically. That was his tactic. And I want a good display to show that I’m there to put on fights and throw down with anyone. I also want to test myself against fighters with different styles.”
Higo knows he’s got a seasoned Bellator veteran in front of him and is by no means overlooking that. But, having studied Taimanglo’s past fights so much that “he can’t even look at the computer anymore,” he’s also spotted a number of holes that he can exploit.
“My mission is to finish the fight,” Higo said. “But if it doesn’t happen, I’m ready for that too. I’m ready to go three rounds and put on a tough fight from start to finish.”
While winning is the goal here, the way it comes about is also a factor. After all, Higo does want that stab at the bantamweight belt – for real, this time. And, the way he sees it, a strong start might be enough to ensure it happens sooner rather than later.
“I had a tough fight with ‘Duda’ (Dantas),” Higo said. “It was so close that it was even a split. So by winning this one and the next, I think I’ll be ready to fight for the belt, especially because Bellator doesn’t have that many athletes at 135. The few that are there, though, are tough. No one is average. All of them are good.
“I think that, by winning this and another one, I’ll be close to the belt again. Or, depending on how I beat Joe, I think I could be next. You never know, especially given Bellator doesn’t go by rankings that much. They like good shows.”
All of this, of course, is moot if he’s unable to get past Taimanglo on Oct. 6. But, motivated by the recent Bellator 183 win of his teammate and mentor, Patricky Freire, Higo is simply feeling too well-prepared to dwell on that possibility.
“(Freire) is a guy who’s always with me and who’ll be my cornerman on fight night,” Higo said. “It will be cool. I’m very motivated. I don’t see myself walking away without the win.”