It may only be his second fight under the Bellator MMA banner, but Josh Hill knows where he stands in the bantamweight division.
Canada’s Hill (19-3) will take on Mexico’s Erik Perez (19-7) in a bantamweight clash at Bellator 244 on Friday night in Uncasville, CT.
With the resume Perez boasts, including a 6-2 record in his UFC stint, Hill, 33, said a victory over him would put the rest of the bantamweight division on notice, and potentially set him up for a big fight next time out.
“The bantamweight division in Bellator is very stacked. They have Patrick Mix and Juan Archuleta fighting for the belt, and Sergio Pettis awaiting the winner of that fight,” said Hill in an interview with MMA Empire.
“If I can beat Perez in this fight, it definitely puts me right up there amongst that top five, and could hopefully potentially lineup a number one contender fight at the end of the year or early next year.”
Hill among Bellator elite
In addition to Archuleta, Mix, and Pettis, fighters such as Ricky Bandejas, James Gallagher, and Raufeon Stots are also making their mark in the division.
But regardless of who it is or where they rank in the division, Hill said he believes he matches up well against anyone Bellator puts in front of him.
“I’m confident I matchup well with all of them. At this level, I’m a difficult fight for anybody in the world,” said Hill.
“Those guys are all good, tough, and skilled, but there’s nobody in the world I can’t compete with. I definitely see myself in that top five, and can definitely step in there and fight any of them at any given time.”
Although Gallagher may not currently be among the frontrunners for a title shot, he’s a well-known name in the bantamweight division, and garners plenty of attention, especially in his home country of Ireland.
A matchup with Gallagher is something Hill has been lobbying for, even before he made his Bellator MMA debut. And although he has his sights set on a top-five opponent next, Hill said he would love a matchup with Gallgher anytime.
“I would love that fight; that would be my first pick for sure. He’s a big name, he’s an Irish star, especially when Bellator goes out there, and I think Mix, Archuleta and Pettis are all more difficult fights than he is,” said Hill.
“I like that matchup and I would love that fight, but I highly doubt he would take that fight. But as of right now, the only thing I’m worrying about is Perez. If I get past him, then I can start doing some callouts and get some publicity around that. But one thing at a time, and Perez is first.”
Bellator monkey off his back
Hill made his Bellator MMA debut back in February at Bellator 239, a unanimous decision win over Vinicius Zani.
Hill said now having that first Bellator win out of the way will allow him to open up more going forward, and start taking a few more risks in the cage.
“I kind of got that monkey off my back of starting with a win in Bellator,” said Hill.
“Now that I’ve done that and I’m coming off a win, I can kind of unload a little more, unleash and showcase more of my skills, and be a bit more of a risk-taker.”
Hill will look to add to his eight-career finishes Saturday night against who he said is a tough and durable opponent in Perez.
But despite Perez’s impressive resume, Hill said this is his fight to win however and wherever he chooses.
“He’s the kind of guy that likes to put pressure on you, and kind of has that Mexican style where he’s coming forward, and mostly boxing-oriented,” said Hill.
“I’m more of a cerebral fighter, I move around a lot, I’m always cutting angles and looking for opportunities, and I mix in my wrestling well too. I could see myself cracking him and landing a big knockout punch, I could see myself taking him down and getting that submission, or just beating him every single round and winning a decision.”
“I’d like to thank all my sponsors, my coaches, my family, and everyone making this possible for me to do.” Follow Hill on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM