Fight Master: Bellator MMA features 32 welterweights, each of whom receives the opportunity to train with some of the best in the MMA world. Former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren joined Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, and Greg Jackson as one of the four coaches that the fighters can personally choose to help them develop their own skills. All 32 members of the cast aspire to compete in an upcoming Bellator welterweight tournament and win the coveted title. Every single one of those men aspires to be the next big thing in the Bellator promotion.

In a way, Warren can identify with the fighters on the show, including those on his squad. Not too long ago, the self-professed “baddest man on the planet” felt the glory that came with the Bellator featherweight crown. Since then, however, he has tumbled down the mountain. Now, Warren finds himself preparing for a Sept. 7 bout with Nick Kirk and looks to answer questions about whether he will return to that former glory.

Of course, Warren’s recent 1-2 run does not mark the first time he has found himself in need of a rebound from adversity. When Warren began his career in 2009, the then 33-year-old Michiganite scored wins in Dream over Chase Beebe and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. However, when he faced Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes, the touted BJJ wizard handed Warren his first pro loss.

In 2010, Warren signed on to compete in the Bellator season-two featherweight tournament. Despite coming in with a 2-1 pro record following the loss to Fernandes, Warren scored dominant wins over Eric Marriott and Georgi Karakhanyan, as well as a split decision win over Patricio Freire, to earn a shot at then-champion Joe Soto. Warren scored a now-famous knee on Soto and followed up with a flurry of punches to put “The Hammer” down.

Fans expected Warren’s stock to only rise further after he defeated Soto, but things did not go smoothly. Warren was tempted by the idea of a drop to bantamweight and took on a 137-pound catchweight bout with Marcos Galvao. Warren captured a unanimous decision, but many spectators and experts felt Galvao easily took the first two rounds.

Nevertheless, Warren attempted to build on that momentum and entered the season-five bantamweight tournament. Despite heavy expectations, he suffered a first-round knockout loss to natural flyweight Alexis Vila in the opening round of the tournament. Warren’s streak of bad luck continued when he encountered Pat Curran. Curran only needed three rounds to finish Warren and take his featherweight title.

Now, Warren comes off a November win over Owen Evinger to coach on Bellator’s first foray into the reality-series universe and to return to action in the Bellator cage. He remains at bantamweight in an attempt to make one last run at a world title at the expense of any challengers in his path.

Given his focus on the mental aspect of MMA, Warren can accomplish that task. He will also impart his knowledge of the mental aspect of MMA onto his team of four during his time on the Spike TV-based program. With million of homes that enjoy access to Spike TV, MMA fans will keep Warren fresh in their minds by watching him mentor his team. If any doubts still exist about Warren after Fight Master, then he will lay them to rest when he returns this September during the toughest bantamweight tournament in the world.

The time existed when few would argue Warren’s claim as “the baddest man on the planet.” Now, through his work as a coach and a fighter, he’ll have to earn that honor back. With a bantamweight tournament championship win and a dominant performance against reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas, he can once again regain the right to that moniker.

Why should anyone think that Warren will fare any better when his last run spelled complete disaster, though? How can anyone declare any confidence in Warren’s ability to earn it back at bantamweight? After all, people remained positive about how Warren’s first run at bantamweight would go, and yet it turned into a nightmare.

Also, nobody knows who will join the bantamweight tournament field as of yet, but regardless of who may await Warren, the former featherweight kingpin presents problems for any fighter. Warren always brings an aggressive wrestling style to his fights, pressuring opponents on the feet and implementing his strength to take opponents down at will. His ground-and-pound attack complements his grinding style of wrestling to where he can easily work to win rounds, despite not finishing many with his ground attack.

Warren appears to have answers to the questions about his grappling, which can pay dividends, when coupled with his strength, to success in this tournament and against Dantas. In earning his unanimous decision nod over Evinger, Warren attacked for submissions while also implementing his wrestling and his ground attack. Incidentally, Kirk also has never lost by submission in his career, but he owns two decision losses. In bouts that go the distance, Warren never loses.

Defensively, Warren fends off submission attempts well, and he often makes use of his strength in order to escape from various holds. He escaped from various submission holds against Karakhanyan and Galvao, both of whom possess solid submission defenses in their own respective rights. If any fighter attempts a submission on Warren during this tournament, expect Warren to use his strength to escape and regain a dominant position.

Fans must also expect Warren to have acquired some mental facets to his game on Fight Master to aid him as well. Training a younger crop of fighters will help to reinvigorate his confidence, which already sits at a high but will skyrocket before fight time. Additionally, a moment in the spotlight on the reality program will remind him of the feeling he once experienced as featherweight champion. He felt the motivation of knowing the whole world would center its attention onto him firsthand, and it once helped him when it counted.

Rest assured, it will help him again where it counts. He wants that world championship status back and will fight to get it back against Kirk and whoever else stands in his way. The pressure of fighting with all eyes on him, coupled with Warren’s previous success in challenging for a Bellator world title, will encourage Warren to bring out a better version of himself in each stage of the tournament, as well as the title fight.

Can he beat Dantas, assuming he wins the tournament and earns the opportunity? Yes, he can. Remember, Dantas last faced a solid wrestler when he won the title from Zach Makovsky, but while Makovsky brings an aggressive style all his own, he did not provide the submission defense that Warren enjoys, nor did he enjoy the size advantage that the former featherweight champion will possess in this tournament.

If Warren still needs to prove to anyone that he can recapture the magic he once felt, he will do it this fall during Bellator’s season-nine bantamweight tournament. He will encounter durable competitors, but he will find a way to prevail in his second bantamweight tournament outing. When all is said and done, Warren will emerge as a prominent name in the MMA world again, and he will not hesitate to inform the world that he remains “the baddest man on the planet” after he does it.

Photo: Joe Warren (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.