Bellator’s Season 2 Featherweight Champion Joe Warren (5-1) came close to not being able to fight, much less pocket the $100,000 winner’s purse, last Thursday due to health issues.
The former NCAA all-American and two-time Greco-Roman wrestling world champion could not keep any food or water down for more than 12 hours prior to the fight, was vomiting regularly up until the time his gloves were being taped, and had become extremely dehydrated.
Warren may have had a case of food poisoning. He said he woke up early Thursday morning feeling extremely nauseous, most likely from a Wednesday night room service meal that did not sit right.
When Warren entered the cage at Bellator 23 on June 24 in Louisville, Ky., he had not eaten all day. It was the Featherweight Tournament Finals and Warren’s opponent was undefeated Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (14-1), who was on a 14-fight win streak.
As the fight began Warren’s movements seemed sluggish and awkward and his takedown attempts were telegraphed and unsuccessful. It quickly became apparent to those watching something was not quite right.
Warren got dropped from a punch and it looked like he might even get submitted during the first round but somehow gutted out the five minutes.
As round two began there was something different about the wrestling champion. Warren eventually secured his first takedown, began using ground and pound, and the momentum of the fight started to shift.
Warren’s instinct took over, and in round three he continued to take Pitbull down, control the position, and attack from the top. In the end, Warren was awarded the split decision victory, was $100,000 richer, and earned himself a shot at Bellator’s featherweight champion Joe Soto (9-0).
“There was absolutely no way I was not going to fight. I coach youth wrestling and I tell my kids all the time that you’re never going to be 100 percent for every one of your fights, but that you’re going to have to battle through days like that if you want to be a champion. I thought about that on Thursday and it just really helped push me through.”
Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney shared his thoughts on what Warren accomplished last Thursday:
“What Joe Warren did on Thursday night is nothing short of remarkable. He showed huge heart and the kind of courage that’s not often seen in any sport. I was in constant contact with Joe’s team on Thursday and I can tell you that most people in his condition would have been in the hospital. But, as Joe’s said many times, ‘Losing was never an option.’ Joe has the heart of a warrior and watching his win over a world-class fighter like Patricio Pitbull was a true privilege.”
“I can promise you that I’m going to be 100 percent better by the time I face Joe Soto. Joe’s a great fighter but it’s going to be tough to beat me. If nobody could beat me in the condition I was in on Thursday, I don’t know how anyone’s going to beat me when I’m 100 percent.”
The man has a point.