Bellator bills its season as “the toughest tournament in sports.” For many reasons, the description might be right. The tournament is a taxing process where competitors have to go through as many as three fights in the stretch of a few months. That might not seem that tough on the surface, but think about what the fighter goes through. Maintaining weight. The pain and nagging injuries that other fighters usually has plenty of time to recover from after a fight. It’s no walk in the park.

If a fighter goes through all of this and comes out on top of one of these tournaments, he certainly get to reap all of the rewards. Bellator writes its tournament champions a fat check for $100,000 and grants them a future title shot.

Kimball (R) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Kimball (R) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

This Friday night, Jeremy Kimball will begin his quest towards the money and a title shot when he faces Dan Cramer.

Kimball was not an original entrant into this season’s middleweight tournament. Past tournament champion Doug Marshall had to drop out of the tourney due to an injury. Bellator tapped Kimball as Marshall’s replacement, and Kimball believes he is ready for the opportunity.

“Bellator called my coach and asked if I’d take the fight,” Kimball told The MMA Corner. “I’m confident that I’m ready to fight.”

Any short-notice bout is a big task for a fighter. But stepping into a situation where you could be fighting twice in a little more than a month? That’s a big deal.

“I’d been in the gym training as usual,” Kimball said. “They had me signed up to fight in late May, but this one came up and I took it.”

The scenario of a short-notice fight brings with it several challenges. The weight cut alone could spell doom. So, does Kimball think he’ll have any trouble making the cut to the middleweight limit?

“I hope not. I’ve been working hard at it,” he said.

Kimball will step into the cage with Cramer, a veteran of the tournament format. Cramer advanced to the semifinals of the season-eight middleweight bracket before falling to eventual title challenger Brett Cooper. Kimball knows that Cramer is going to be anxious to get past this round and on to the tournament final.

“He’s a grinder,” Kimball explained. “It should be a grueling fight.”

Kimball even has a pretty good idea of what kind of strategy Cramer will attempt to employ to get past him.

“I think he is going to try and take me down and get on top,” Kimball stated. “I don’t think he is going to want to strike with me.”

Kimball could certainly be right about that. Seven of his 10 career victories have come by knockout or TKO, and two of Cramer’s four losses have been due to a knockout.

Kimball (L) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Kimball (L) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

One would also think that Cramer could attempt to earn the first submission victory of his career. Submission defense has been Kimball’s main weakness, and all four of his career losses have come after a tap.

“I’ve been working on every aspect of my game, but I’ve been focusing on that a lot, and [I] think it’s come a long way,” Kimball admitted.

This season, Bellator is only using a four-man bracket to determine the next challenger for champion Alexander Shlemenko. The aforementioned Cooper has already advanced to the finals with a comeback finish of Kendall Grove, and he will face the winner of this fight between Kimball and Cramer. Even before Cooper fought Grove, Kimball had a hunch that Cooper might be the man waiting for him in the finals.

“I think Cooper is the guy. I think he had a great fight with Shlemenko, and I think that would be a fun fight,” Kimball said.

Fans would certainly look forward to that match-up of great strikers if it came to fruition. Kimball already feels that his striking will be the difference against Cramer.

“I don’t know what round it is going to happen,” Kimball stated, “but I plan on knocking him out.”

A tournament final slot would be near the top of the list of goals for Kimball. Bellator’s tourney format has received some scrutiny recently, with some fans and media even calling for the format to be scrapped. Kimball is not amongst those people. He believes the tournaments are what set Bellator apart and provide the promotion with its unique identity.

“Bellator is a great company,” Kimball exclaimed. “The tournament is the main reason why you sign up.”

Kimball has his second opportunity in one of these tournaments, and he knows what he wants out of it.

“It’s not even really about the money for me. I just want to win and get that belt.”

Jeremy would like to thank his dad and his head coach for being big influences on his life and fighting career. He would also like to thank all of his sponsors: Onnit, Ammo to Go, Gamma Labs, MMA Overload, Cagelife Radio, and Bodyfuel Colorado. Follow Kimball on Twitter: @Jeremykimball1

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.