Neiman Gracie knows that if you want the title shot, a lot depends on how you win.
But the most important is victory and the Huntington Beach welterweight believes he was denied it in April.
Gracie looks to get back into the winning column and continue her quest for gold when she takes on Mark Leminger in the Bellator 266 co-main event on Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose.
“I don’t know if it will put me in a title fight, but how I beat him will matter,” Gracie said on Wednesday. “If it’s a good win, if it’s a good ending, something impressive, then I think it will get me back there. If not, I think it’s just another fight.”
His Bellator 255 co-main event match against Jason Jackson on April 2 was more than just another fight. The winner knew that he would be considered a top contender for Yaroslav Amosov’s belt.
Gracie, 32, said of her unanimous decision defeat, “I thought I had won that fight and I thought the judges were very wrong and I was trying to get a rematch, but I couldn’t. ” 29-28 for Jackson by all three judges. “Bellator isn’t giving me a rematch right now.
“I thought I won first and second, and if I had to give him a round it was third. The first round was crazy because they kept stopping the fight from the mount position. It was a crazy round.”
After the first minute of the opening round, Jackson managed to fight back to the mat and was on top of Gracie near the cage. As Gracie exited, Jackson’s face was dragged against the fence. Gracie grabbed Jackson’s back and began to act as a choke.
Jackson complained about vision in his left eye, at which point referee Kevin MacDonald could be heard telling him at the 3:30 mark: “Either this fight is over or you keep going.”
Still at 2:08, McDonald’s called a timeout so doctors could assess Jackson’s torn eyelid. Even though the fighters returned to the same position with Gracie on their backs – which Jackson later fled – Gracie said it affected his speed.
“I believe they cannot stop the fight because of this. It was a very crazy moment and it shocked me,” he said.
John McCarthy, a famous longtime MMA referee, before joining Bellator as a cage-side analyst in 2018, said that even though Gracie doesn’t like it, it was a fair call by McDonald.
McCarthy, who commented for Gracie’s fight with Jackson, said: “Whenever you have a fighter that has a situation where you see a cut, you see it’s in their eye, you’re in their eye.” something’s wrong and you look up and say, ‘I’m not sure he can continue to fight this, the only thing I can do is either stop the fight altogether’ – which is probably a Not going to be a good idea – ‘Or I can stop it, bring him to the doctor, let the doctor decide if this guy can move on and then put them back in that position.'”
On top of all that, Gracie went into battle with Jackson with a torn MCL. “It was really bad, but no excuse. It was my choice to fight that injury, but I thought I won the fight regardless.”
About six months later, along with two months of daily physical therapy for her knee, Gracie (10-2) says she is completely healthy and back training at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach.
Gracie said, “I worked a lot on my fight from my back, so not on my back for so long, but I think the one thing I did a lot better for this fight was my striking. ” “I think if he really tries to beat me in a stand-up fight, I think I’ll be able to show that my striking has gotten a lot better.”
When Leminger (12-3) was told that he expected Gracie to finish with his striking, Gracie replied: “He says he’s going to end up on the feet? They always say that. We When I get there, I start replying to them and they change their mind. So let’s see.”
When the 28-year-old Leminger was told he was comfortable taking the field with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu second-degree black belt, Gracie quipped.
“Oh, they also always say the same thing. What can I do? We’ll have to see Saturday night,” said Gracie. “They always say they’re comfortable on the floor, but they don’t want to go on the floor.”
Main Function: No. 3 Light Heavyweight Phil Davis vs. Joel Romero
Co-Main Events: No. 4 Welterweight Neiman Gracie vs. Mark Lemminger
where: SAP Center, San Jose
how to see: Prelims (4 p.m., Bellator MMA YouTube, Showtime Sports YouTube or Pluto TV); Main Card (7 p.m., Showtime)