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NEW YORK – It didn’t take long for Mike Kimbel to get his confidence and swagger back.
In February, after a pair of highlight-reel wins to open his pro career, Kimbel tapped to a triangle choke against John Douma at Bellator 215. The loss came on the heels of a pro debut that went viral – a 63-second TKO win stemming from a slam – and a Bellator record six-second KO of Alex Potts.
But with his first pro loss out of the way, the Connecticut native, repped by Conor McGregor’s management team, can get back to the business of proclaiming himself the bantamweight division’s next big thing.
Kimbel (3-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) on Friday settled for a split-decision win over Sebastian Ruiz (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) on the Bellator 222 prelims at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card streamed on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
And he wasn’t happy about it.
“I feel a little disrespected, to be honest, with the split decision,” Kimbel said after the fight. “All that matters is the win, but a split decision? C’mon, man. I fought with no glasses. I had (photorefractive keratectomy vision correction surgery) done after my last fight, and I could see that wasn’t a split decision.”
But Kimbel implied going the distance was part of his plan all along, even if he’d have preferred all three judges be in agreement that he should get his hand raised.
And he said Darrion Caldwell, who lost his bantamweight title to Kyoji Horiguchi on the main card, was paying him compliments of the highest order earlier in the week.
“I’ve been hearing all week – the champion in my own division telling me he’s a fan of my work,” Kimbel said. “That’s going to be my belt soon. Great champions, great people and great martial artists all around me all throughout the week telling me they’re basically looking forward to my fight. I keep hearing ‘Have fun, have fun, have fun.’ So I was like, ‘Ya know what? I’m going to go out there and give the people 15 minutes of what I love.’”
Still, despite being forced to tap four months ago, and taking a split call Friday, the 22-year-old’s confidence remains arguably at its peak.
“I’m telling you guys – you guys can believe me now, or you can look stupid later: I’m the future, I swear to God,” Kimbel said. “I deserve this because I earned this. Nothing has ever been handed to me. As a matter of fact, everything has been against me for a long time. As you can see, I go out there and I showcase a good display of skills, and they split decision me. I’m never going to get handed anything.
“I would’ve discredited my camp and all these people that put in these hard couple months with me by going out there and just smoking somebody in a couple seconds. I wanted to go out there and just showcase a little bit of everything, and it was fun.”
For more from Kimbel, check out the video above.
News | MMA Junkie