Bellator’s bantamweight division is set to be on full display Friday night.
In addition to the bantamweight title headliner between Juan Archuleta and Sergio Pettis, Canada’s Josh Hill (20-3) and the United States’ Raufeon Stots (15-1) are set to close out the Bellator 258 prelims in Uncasville, Conn. in a matchup featuring two of Bellator’s top-ranked bantamweight fighters.
Hill, 34, said he doesn’t feel it’s a coincidence he and Stots are on the same card as the bantamweight title fight and believes the winner between them will be next in line for a shot at the gold.
“I’m 20-3 in my career and 2-0 in Bellator, and Stots is 15-1 and 3-0 in Bellator. I don’t doubt it and I think absolutely this should be the number one contender fight and the winner should fight the winner of Pettis and Archuleta,” said Hill in an interview with MMA Empire.
“They said, unofficially, this is a number one contender fight and I think it’s flying under the radar. Someone asked me if I think me and Stots are the dark horses in the division, and I agree to that, I think we are. We’re two of the guys that are right there and a win for either of us will put us in a title shot position, so it’s a big fight.”
Stots, 32, echoes the same feelings as Hill when it comes to their place in the division and said he believes the winner will no doubt have their crack at the championship next.
“I believe that’s why they put us on this card. We were supposed to fight before and they told us we were a title eliminator fight, so I know we’re right there,” said Stots in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I think both of us are kind of dark horses in the division where we have a lot of experience and we’re very tough opponents, but we don’t have a big social media following, so there’s not a lot of upside as far as eyes to fight us. A lot of guys try to shy away from us. With a win here, we could definitely be fighting for a title and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.”
Hill a tough out for any bantamweight in the world
If a victory over Stots does indeed land Hill in a title fight position, he would be standing opposite either Archuleta or Pettis, both elite and well-known fighters.
But no matter which one he were to face, Hill believes he matches up great with both of them. And any other bantamweight in the world.
“I stack up well with anybody in the world. I’m at the point in my career where I have the experience, I have the skillset, I have the athleticism and I’m in my prime right now. I think I match up great with anybody,” said Hill.
“Both guys are very good; Archuleta has a great record and a lot of good wins, and Sergio is very talented as well. I think either one would make for a great fight, but it really doesn’t matter who’s there. If I go out and do my thing, I think I can be victorious over anybody any day.”
Although Hill has the slight edge in experience, he and Stots have amassed their impressive respective records in similar fashion.
And while their styles do mirror each other closely, Hill said there are two areas he believes to have an advantage over Stots.
“I think my striking is better and I think I hit harder as well. I pack more of a punch and have more of that one-punch knockout power,” said Hill.
“My fight IQ will be an advantage for me too, I think. I don’t just throw s**t at the wall and hope for the best. Everything I do in there is for a reason. I’m trying to either set something up or set a trap or counter something.”
Stots with a tough call to make if Pettis is champion
Although he does feel a win over Hill will put him next in line for a bantamweight title shot, who that title shot is against is an important factor for Stots.
A long-time training partner at Roufusport and friend of Pettis, Stots said he believes Pettis will defeat Archuleta on Friday night, leaving them in a tough position if poised to face each other next.
“We talked about it and we’re both professionals. The only way I would be able to fight Sergio is if it would change my family, the trajectory of my family. I wouldn’t fight him for no other reason. I hang out with him more than I hang out with my brother. I’ve trained with him ever since I came out to Roufusport and he’s like a brother to me,” said Stots.
“I was hoping they did a tournament so if we were to fight, we would be on opposite sides and it would be worth something. It has to be worth something for me to fight Sergio.”
On a stacked Bellator 258 card that features the likes of Archuleta, Pettis, Anthony Johnson, Michael Page, Patrick Mix, Lorenz Larkin, Stots and Hill will be holding down the headlining slot of the prelim portion of the event.
Given their records, winning streaks and the stakes, Stots said he and Hill are in a perfect position to truly make a name for themselves in the MMA world.
“I feel like this is a perfect opportunity for us to stamp our name in Bellator. I believe we were slated to be on the main card before, but they have a lot of big names and I understand the sport. I feel like it’s (the big names) going to bring more eyes to the show, which will also bring more eyes to our fight,” said Stots.
“I’m excited, I’m optimistic and I feel like this is going to be a real crossroads in both of our careers. Somebody’s going to takeoff after this fight, and I’m excited to see who it is.”
“I would like to thank Combat Corner, Twin J Fight Team, Jake Kurtz Painting, BB Roofing, Perfect Sports, DC Mouthguards, and Third Coast T-Shirts.” Follow Stots on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM