Richie Smullen spoke to us here at Pundit Arena ahead of his Bellator Dublin featherweight showdown against Sean Tobin this evening.
Seeing Richie win in dominant fashion on February’s Bellator Dublin main-card held an extra significance to those who have followed his career – especially in the last year or so.
His run as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter was one that came to an unfortunate end after he was forced to withdraw after a bout of rhabdomyolysis – something he explained to us during the edition of Exploring Irish MMA he was featured in back in June of last year.
A loss in his UFC debut against Luis Pena soon followed but it was clear that he was jumping on that opportunity while still in the process of recovery.
Beating Adam Gustab in his first outing as a Bellator fighter was a win that clearly held some major significance – especially given the impressive nature of the performance.
Speaking to Pundit Arena ahead of his return to the cage, Smullen explained how he plans on improving on that outing in every possible way this time around.
“The fight in Dublin I was definitely dominant, I did win it. But I think after my injuries and illness, I didn’t pull the trigger with Adam [Gustab] – no disrespect to him – especially in some of those ground positions.
“I should be finishing them, I do finish them all of the time in the gym. I think I was a little bit too cautious last time, I didn’t pull the trigger. This time I don’t think I’ll be as cautious, I’ll go back to my usual kind of style – more aggressive.
“I wasn’t that aggressive in my last fight, I was just happy to stay on top and win. This time I want to be aggressive and win dominantly.
“At the end of the day, putting on a show is one thing, but getting the win is the main thing. Winning comes first always. It gives you double the money, double the purse. But if I get any of those positions I had against Adam [Gustab], I am so confident that I’ll pull the trigger.”
Facing Sean Tobin on tonight’s card, Smullen has the opportunity to display the skills he has been honing for the last six months on a card that many are looking at as one of the greatest Irish MMA events of all-time.
Citing himself as the more complete fighter of the two, he broke down where he feels the advantages will lie for him and how impressing Bellator is on his mind at this point.
“The last few months have been good. I’ve learned a lot as a fighter.
“I asked [directly after February’s fight] for them to put me on the London card in June but look, it is what it is. Hopefully after this fight when I put Sean [Tobin] away I’ll get another fight before the year is out.
“He’s good, everybody is good at this level. I think he’s more of a grappler/wrestler – the same kind of style as me. I’m just a better version. When you add on my kickboxing and boxing training, I’m a bit too complete for him.
“I’m not underestimating the guy, this is a big opportunity for him so I’m expecting the best Sean but I do think that I’m the better fighter.
“I want to go out there and impress Bellator, win spectacularly. Where they give me next I don’t mind. The UK would be handy but wherever it is I don’t mind.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena