After Eduardo Dantas tore up the regional circuit in his native Brazil, captured a Shooto Americas title and found his way to Bellator MMA, he wasted no time in reaching the top of the California-based promotion’s bantamweight division. Still, his career has been something of a rollercoaster ride.
Dantas racked up three wins in Bellator before submitting Zach Makovsky with a textbook arm-triangle choke to claim the 135-pound championship in April 2012, and he made two successful title defenses against Anthony Leone and Marcos Galvao. However, he surrendered the title in a unanimous decision loss to Joe Warren at Bellator 128. An NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Michigan and a Greco-Roman gold medalist at the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships, Warren short-circuited the Nova Uniao star with takedowns and positional control. Dantas rebounded with a victory over Mike Richman and then outpointed Galvao to reclaim the bantamweight crown (live odds).
A date with Warren followed at Bellator 166 on Dec. 2, as Dantas consolidated his latest reign with a majority decision against the self-professed “Baddest Man on the Planet.”
“It has been so rewarding because the first time I fought Warren, I lost to him because he put me down so many times,” Dantas told Sherdog.com. “When I beat Galvao to win my title back, I knew I was going to eventually be fighting Warren again, and I did. I knew what to expect going in because I put my mind to what he does, and he was not able to put me on the ground. I saw that he couldn’t do that anymore, and it felt so good to [prevent] that and to win. It’s been amazing.”
To call the win satisfying would be an understatement, even though Dantas expects to face Warren in a trilogy bout at some point.
“It felt so good because that first time, it was my first loss in Bellator,” he said. “When I fought him again, I had already won my belt back, and since he was the guy to beat me, it was a relief to beat him [in return]. It was great because we are now 1-1 against each other, and that win over him helped erase that loss to him. I know I’ll be seeing him again someday, but I’ll be ready.”
Shifting gears, Dantas now looks ahead to his showdown with Leandro Higo in the Bellator 177 main event on Friday at Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. “Dudu” was originally scheduled to meet 2009 NCAA wrestling champion Darion Caldwell before a training injury forced the American to bow out and opened the door for Higo. Operating out of the Pitbull Brothers camp, Higo has already captured championships in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Legacy Fighting Alliance promotions.
“I was a little disappointed at first because I was training very hard for Caldwell,” Dantas said. “I knew right after my last fight that I would be fighting him, but it’s OK.”
Higo has the champion’s full attention. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt enters his organizational debut on a run of eight consecutive victories, six of them finishes.
“I have been training for weeks now to fight Higo,” Dantas said. “I train to fight anybody, and I know this fight will be more exciting. Higo will make for a more exciting fight because he will strike, where Caldwell I know would try to put me onto the ground and hold me there. I think for the fans this fight is more exciting.”
Dantas was quick to accept the matchup with Higo instead of waiting for Caldwell to heal. He wants to stay as active as possible, as he has not competed more than twice in a calendar year since 2011. Dantas, who turned 28 in February, has planned a rude welcome for Higo.
“I think he is a good fighter, but I don’t think he is as good as everybody says,” he said. “He does have a very good ground game and he has a good rear-naked choke, but I don’t see him putting me in any bad positions in this fight. I see myself beating him for sure. I have had a month now to prepare for Higo. It’s enough time to prepare for him, so it doesn’t matter.”
Dantas was confident enough to call his shot.
“I think I will be finishing him standing,” he said. “I think I will knock him out with a left uppercut.”