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Bellator’s Raufeon Stots is one of MMA’s best prospects. At 15-1, Stots is a veteran of the LFA scene and has tallied a 3-0 record since joining Bellator, beating Cheyden Leialoha, Cass Bell, and Keith Lee. Stots spoke with us about his last win at Bellator 253, what he’s looking forward to, Kamaru Usman, and more!
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Wrestling is where Stots cut his teeth in the combat sports world. Winning two DII National Championships at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he’s proved to be a winner from the jump. His wrestling success translated well to mixed martial arts. Raufeon Stots credits his coach, former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver for helping him transition over and becoming such a complete mixed martial artist.
“My work ethic was already pretty high and I attribute that to wrestling. Then when I started with Jens Pulver, who was also a good wrestler that turned out to be a good striker in MMA. He helped me with the mindset and transitioning to MMA. He made it a lot smoother for me.”
Stots doesn’t believe it’s just the work ethic that follows him over from wrestling either. He believes that it’s the body awareness from wrestling that helped him in mixed martial arts as well.
“I think for sure. Not only because of the work ethic and mindset wrestling brings in how you practice and how you perform, but also the body control and body awareness that you get from wrestling. Similar to how gymnastics are, you’re aware of where your body is so you can manipulate your body and someone else’s body fairly familiar.”
If Nebraska at Kearney sounds familiar, it should. It was the wrestling home of current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Usman won a National Championship there as well in 2010. Usman and Stots spent time together and Usman took Stots under his wing.
“I wrestled on the same team as Usman. he was my coach at Team Texas duals. I went to Nebraska Kearney the year after he left. I’ve known him for forever.” Stots continued, “We still talk every fight. When I came to college and he’s Nigerian and his mom knew I was Nigerian so she always told him to look out for me. So Usman feels like he’s kind of a big brother to me and that’s how he talks to me, kind of like a big brother. It’s all cool. I appreciate all the advice he always gives me.”
We see the issue with wrestlers translating to MMA falling in love with the hands. Fighters from Yoel Romero to Aaron Pico have forgotten their wrestling roots at times, it seems, and have fallen in love with striking and knocking people out cold. Raufeon Stots uses a complete game and I asked if the struggle to go all striking ever presents itself to the Nigerian bantamweight. Stots says the experience of Pulver in this department really keeps him true north and has his game developing correctly.
“I started with Jens Pulver, and he’s given me a lot of knowledge that he would have done differently. I take them all to heart. There’s a lot of things he said in his career that if he could do it over he would have done it this way. I take heed to Jens word. He’s like my mentor. Any time I have a question about fighting or the business, I go to Jens. He told me if he did anything different, he wouldn’t fall away from his wrestling. He got to knocking people out and it’s easy to knock people out. It’s fun and the best feeling ever. He fell in love with it and he wished he would have kept going with the wrestling for the longevity for his career and being able to mix things up. I’ll always use my wrestling. My wrestling will always be a part of my game. I’m definitely going to be using new techniques but wrestling will definitely be a big part of it.”
Raufeon Stots on Nigeria in MMA
Nigeria and Africa seems to be an upcoming hotbed of MMA. With more fighters coming over from Africa, like Francis N’Gannou, Reug Reug and more, We are seeing champions and top tier fighters emerge from the continent.
“It must be in the fufu that they make,” Raufeon Stots said with a big laugh. “I don’t know what it is but I have noticed. It’s a lot of very successful of African descent in MMA. They got Sodiq Yusuff, Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya, there’s a ton of them. I don’t know what it is.”
Bellator has been making headlines with signing prospects and not outcast UFC fighters. In addition to Raufeon Stots, Magomed Magomedov, and Austin Vanderford have all signed to the promotion over the UFC for greener pastures. Stots said that the direction headed by Bellator was a big part of his signing with Scott Coker and company.
“I think there has been a shift in where Bellator is headed. I like it. I feel like they’re getting top prospects and you don’t see a lot of gimmie fights in Bellator. They got top level talent. That was one of the reasons I chose Bellator. I saw they were heading in a different direction and that million dollar tournament caught my eye.”
In his last fight with Bellator, he took on and defeated Keith Lee via unanimous decision. Stots melded everything together nicely and he believes it confirmed even more what he believed for some time now: that he is complete. He believes how he has things running bodes well for him in MMA and he will continue to improve as a fighter.
“I took away from that fight pretty much what I already knew. Josh Thompson gave me a question asking Shawn Bunch wasn’t able to take Keith Lee down and he’s arguably a better wrestler than you on paper. What makes you think you’ll be able to get him down? I feel like I mesh it all together well and I’m good enough everywhere that everything is a problem and it’s hard to see where I’m coming from. That’s why I’m a better wrestler in MMA. And that’s what I took from it. Wherever the fight goes, I’m comfortable with it. If the fight stays on the feet, I’m comfortable there. If it goes on the ground, I’m really comfortable there. It further proves that I’m one of the best.”
As for when you can catch Supa Stots in the Bellator cage again, he’s hoping for sooner over later. Raufeon Stots aims to be back to action early next year and hopes to be on fellow Roufus Sports teammate’s cards to compete along side them.
“I’m hoping to get in the cage either January or February. More likely February because I know they got other people that want to fight. It would be awesome if I could get in with one of my teammates, like Sergio Pettis. I think he’s fighting for the bantamweight belt next here soon. Then Emmanuel Sanchez who is fighting for the featherweight belt and he’s in the Grand Prix and trying to move on to the final of the tournament. If I could fight on the card with either one of those, it would be dope.”