Photo credit: Dave Mandel for Sherdog

It’s been nearly one year since Zach Makovsky (13-2) became Bellator’s first-ever bantamweight champion, and despite the absence of a number one contender the Philadelphia native hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Since winning the championship, the 29-year-old has not only gone on to win a non-title bout this past April, but he also quit his job to focus exclusively on his training. Makovsky hopes that all of the diligent work he is doing now will pay off in the future when he eventually steps into the cage against the winner of Bellator’s Season 5 bantamweight tournament.

But the champion remains focused on one thing at a time and isn’t letting the ongoing tournament distract him from his upcoming non-title bout later this month.

On Saturday, October 15, Makovsky returns to the cage to take on Ryan Roberts (16-9-1, 1 NC) at Bellator 54, which will take place at the Boardwalk Hall Ballroom in Atlantic City, New Jersey.’s Josh Cross recently spoke with Makovsky about his upcoming fight, what it was like to become the first-ever Bellator bantamweight champion, and what he thinks about the Season 5 tournament fighters who are trying to get a shot at his title.

PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk about competing in Bellator’s first-ever bantamweight tournament and what it was like becoming the champion after you beat Ed West in the finals?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: The tournament itself was a great experience. I think I was kind of under the radar as far as anyone knew, and I really like that about Bellator. It’s not really about matchmaking if you get a spot in the tournament. You control your own destiny and you earn your own place. I think I matched up pretty well against the other guys in the tournament. It just kind of gave me more confidence in my ability and knowing that I’m doing the right things and I’m on the right path. Not that I’m anywhere close to being as good as I would like to be, but I know I’m doing the right things. Being the champion now I’m starting to get a lot more recognition and obviously more financial opportunities so I was able to stop working at a job at Drexel University and now I’m able to do what I love full-time and just train and fight.

PRO MMA NOW: What was going through your mind while you were waiting for the decision to be read in that fight with Ed West? Did you have a feeling that you had won it or did you have any doubts at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I thought I controlled the fight pretty well. He did a good job of not really letting me do too much damage or really even hold any kind of dominant position that I could really attack from. I knew he would be real tough on the ground and he was, but I was confident that I controlled probably every round and I thought I did pretty well in the stand up as well. He might have thrown a higher volume of strikes but I pretty much blocked everything and I was trying to move forward and force him into making mistakes and take that opportunity. I was confident going into the decision. I’m just very grateful to have that opportunity and the future opportunities that it will present me with as far as being able to do what I love for a living and continuing to fight against top level guys. It’s always good to challenge yourself and see what you’ve got.

PRO MMA NOW: Moving on top your upcoming fight on October 15, can you talk about your training camp and how that has been going?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: My training camp is going very well right now. This is really the first fight that I’ve not had another job while training so it’s my first kind of full-time training camp. I think because I had so much extra time in the beginning I started kind of overdoing it a little bit and I was actually getting a little banged up. So I had to ease off a little bit and now that I’ve gotten into my groove I feel really good and I’m ready to go. Obviously I train at the Philadelphia Fight Factory and I’ve got great training partners there. I trained with Eddie Alvarez before he got injured, and we have a lot of really talented guys there that not many people know about. I’ve also been wrestling at Drexel University with the wrestling team and I’ve gotten to go to Ricardo Almeida’s place up in New Jersey and train a little bit with the guys up there like Frankie Edgar and some others as well.

PRO MMA NOW: How much do you know about your opponent Ryan Roberts, and how do you feel that you two match up going into this fight?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I don’t know a ton about him, but I do know a little bit. I’ve seen two of his fights from this year. He has a ton of experience. I think he has something like ten or 11 more fights than I do. He’s been competing at the top level for a while. He’s fought for he UFC and he’s fought some very talented guys like Marcus Aurelio, Donald Cerrone, and Duane Ludwig. Even though he lost to all of those guys he has still been in there with them so he has a good bit of experience.  I think more recently he has been fighting at 145lbs. and he has been doing pretty well there, so I expect him to be big and a pretty strong guy. As far as his skills go, I think that he is pretty good at everything, but not great at anything. I think that I’m a little bit better than him everywhere. I think he’s going to be strong and kind of hard to control, but I think I’ll be able to win the fight wherever it goes.

PRO MMA NOW: Now Roberts has seen the most success in his fights while remaining on his feet. How comfortable are you with the idea of standing with him in this fight?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Well, I’m constantly trying to work at everything. Of the two fights I’ve seen of his, the majority of both were standing. He’s won a bunch of decisions pretty much by out kickboxing people lately, but I can see a lot of opportunity in the way he fights. I think I’m going to have a decent speed advantage although he might have a little bit of a strength advantage. The thing is that you don’t have to be a better striker or a better grappler to be successful. It’s about how you put it all together. I think that’s kind of something that I’m really coming into my own with and learning how to put it all together at the same time. I think that’s what being really successful at MMA is all about.

PRO MMA NOW: Now you’ll be defending your title for the first time against the winner of the Bellator’s Season 5 bantamweight tournament. Is there anyone specifically that has caught your attention at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I was pretty impressed with a bunch of the fights on the [September 24] show.  I thought that Ed West and Eduardo Dantas looked really good. I think that’s going to be a good matchup in the semifinals. I hadn’t seen much of Dantas before that fight and I was impressed. I mean for his age, he’s pretty young, but he looked really composed and calm. He had sold fundamental striking and I know that’s he’s also really good on the ground as well. Wilson Reis, the guy that [Dantas] just knocked out, has a win over me from back in 2008. I’m friends with Wilson now and we’re training partners here and there, and I know how good he is, especially on the ground. [Reis] seems to kind of want to box and strike more lately so I don’t think that was a good strategy going in to fight Dantas. Then Alexis Vila obviously wowed a lot of people. He’s obviously got some big power in his hands, and I thought Joe Warren would do a better job of kind of trying to wear him out by clinching with him and pushing him against the cage some, but it seemed like Warren kind of wanted to strike with him and was reaching out again like he has done in a couple of fights and his hands weren’t up protecting his face. That’s not the kind of thing you want to do against a guy like Vila who has that kind of power.  I think that Vila has a good chance to make it to the finals. I think he matches up pretty well with Marcos Galvao, but I also think that whoever wins between Dantas and West could give Vila a lot of problems in the finals. So I mean I don’t know. I’m interested to see it play out and I’m ready for whoever wins it.

PRO MMA NOW: Besides successfully defending your title, is there any other specific goals or aspirations that you might have for your career at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: I would just like to keep competing at the highest level that I can. I’m not really trying to really look for any kind of real specific opportunities. I’m really trying to not kind of look at it like that. I just really want to block everything out and just focus on me getting better and becoming the best that I can be as much as I can. I’m really just trying to narrow my focus to that and then hopefully let everything else kind of take care of itself. I think that if that’s what you’re focused on and you’re really set on doing that, then I think everything else will kind of fall into place.

PRO MMA NOW: What would you say would be the best way for fans to keep track of what you’ve got going on and what you’ve got coming up?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Anybody can follow me on Twitter (@ZachFunSize). I also just launched my new website recently, which is I’ve got some new videos, news, blogs and stuff like that on there as well so check it out.

PRO MMA NOW: Are there any people you want to thank or sponsors you might want to plug at all?

ZACH MAKOVSKY: Sure, I’d like to thank my team that I train with at the Philadelphia Fight Factory. We’ve got one of the best teams going on. I’d also like to thank Yoked Up, Gamma Labs, and all of my fans and friends who support me.

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