As more athletes turn away (or are turned away) from the UFC, another well-known name has moved over to Bellator: ‘King’ Kevin Casey. Casey’s career started a decade ago in Japan, from there he moved through the organisations, landing a spot on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) in 2013. After losing to the late Josh Samman, it was 15 months and three fights (3-0) later until we saw Casey in the UFC octagon again.
Mixed Martial Arts is an unforgiving game, especially at the highest level. Casey racked up one win, two losses, two no contests and a draw in his last six octagon performances; results that don’t reflect the ability, nor the heart this man possesses. Here we are, 2017 and Casey is making his Bellator debut, as is his coach from the TUF days, Chael Sonnen.
An ever-evolving artist, Casey has added tools to go alongside his Rickson Gracie black belt, training with some of the very best. Going over to Bellator isn’t the only move Casey’s making in 2017; This year Casey plans to make his name known in music, having recently dropped his first single Never.
#Repost @blackhousemma with @repostapp ・・・ Heading into 2017 with ice in our veins. @kingkevincasey #happynewyear from Black House MMA.
The Neversphere: How’s the transition from the UFC to Bellator been, this’ll be your second time working with Scott Coker, has that helped?
Casey: Yeah…so far, so good. I mean, I’m very comfortable with Scott Coker and the way that he runs his organisation…Everything just feels like I’m going back to the guys that I originally started with. Working again with Richard Chou; it just feels very family oriented over at Bellator, and I’m very happy with the transition. I’m very happy with the opportunity to come back in and fight on this amazing Bellator 170 card. Over all I’m just happy.
The Neversphere: Great to hear your finding some happiness in this new situation. So, 2016 seemed to be a not-so-happy-year for most. How’s the start of 2017, and the lead up to this fight been for you?
Casey: It’s been great! My training camp went great; very smooth, no injuries. My body feels great, so a lot of positivity. Everything has been working well.
The Neversphere: At Bellator 170 you’ll be facing Keith Berry in what will be his 30th professional MMA fight. You’re training with some of the best over at Dynamix MMA, so how do you think you match up with this experienced opponent?
Casey: I look at Keith Berry, like you said, as someone who has a lot of experience; a very tough opponent. But I’ve been working a long time with some of the top grapplers in the Gracie family…I’ve been working with Antoni Hardonk, with the Dutch kickboxing style. This’ll be our third training camp together and I really feel that I’ve gelled with the system and I’ll be able to go out there and really express the things that I’ve been working on under pressure and pull it off.
I’ve been working with Kenny Johnson for many years with the whole wrestling style. I really feel like my wrestling has gone to another level. I worked with Talyor Ramsdell for my strength and conditioning at Chain Fitness at Toluca Lake. And I mean, this guy has totally rebuilt my body.
I’m getting a little bit older and for a certain amount of time I thought I maybe was getting a little old, and I wasn’t able to keep myself at the level that I needed to be at. But he really broke me down and we worked for four months to really build up my body. And now you’ll be able to see the new and improved Kevin Casey.
War Ready!!! @ramsdellstrong training, #GracieRep @blackhousemma @dynamixmma @acaiworldmfd fueled. Jan 21st @theforum 🌴INGLEWOOD 🌴. #MyLegacy
The Neversphere: It sounds like you’re coming in very well prepared…
Casey: Oh man, 100%!
The Neversphere: In his last fight, Berry tested positive for marijuana and an elevated testosterone to epitestoserone ratio. Apparently he still smokes weed for pain, but is otherwise clean. Are either or those a concern you?
Casey: No, it’s not a concern for me. I’m not one to hold anything against anyone. I’ll be expecting the strongest Keith Berry…I imagine with him taking such a long layoff that he took that time to rebuild himself and put himself in a position to come back stronger than ever. I expect to fight the best Keith Berry on January 21st.
The Neversphere: So on January 21st, there are some fights other than your own that I’m sure interest you. Your coach from the ultimate fighter, Chael Sonnen is in the main event, and the nephew of the man who gave you your black belt, is fighting as well, Ralek Gracie. What are your thoughts on those fights?
Casey: Yeah! Number one I’m excited to see Ralek back in the cage. I’ve known Ralek since he we were kids and we’ve trained together many, many times over the years. We trained some for this fight coming up and we did some strategy, we did some rounds. I’m very excited to see him get back in there and put it on the line, representing his family.
And as far as Chael goes, Chael’s a guy who I spent time with on The Ultimate Fighter and being on his team. So, having a guy for several weeks, day in day out, support you and be there for you…it’s hard not to feel positive about him. Chael’s a great guy; a great personality. I expect him to do well in the fight and I wish him all the best.
The Neversphere: It’s certainly a big card for Gracie Jiu Jitsu, hopefully we get to see some subs!
Casey: Yeah 100%! And you guys are getting authentic, authentic, Jiu Jitsu.
The Neversphere: So looking past Janurary 21st, is there anyone on the Bellator middleweight roster you have your eye on?
Casey: I hate to look past anyone in this division. I’ve done that before. It’s a big mountain to climb to the top of this division. When you get to the top five, there’s some solid names. Who ever holds the belt is a respected competitor.
I’m here to fight for the belt. I want the belt. That’s what my focus is for signing, that’s why I continue to fight. I want to be a champion. Whoever stands in between me and that goal is the person I focus on.
The Neversphere: Way back in 2009, only four fights into your career, you said before your fight at Strikeforce Challengers that “you don’t need to be good at all aspects of MMA to be successful MMA athlete”, you then proceeded to submit Chad Vance with a rear naked choke in round one. Looking at the company you keep at Dynamix I have a feeling that attitude has changed, how important is it to you to be a well rounded athlete?
Casey: It’s very important to be well rounded. It makes your objective a lot easier to accomplish when you have other tools to beat your opponent. If you’re a one dimensional fighter then sometimes it’s harder to achieve your goal, because your opponent knows what you want. So now I’ve taken on different styles and worked on my striking and I’m getting comfortable on my feet. And that just makes the take down a lot easier to get.
So my objective hasn’t changed, but my approach and my tools of deception that I use to confuse my opponent has; I’ve added to that arsenal.
Happy Birthday Master @ricksongraciejj 💥🙏💥 I have learned many priceless lessons.
The Neversphere: So, stepping away from 170 and Bellator, and looking at MMA in general…what are your thoughts on Meryl Streep’s statement about MMA not being an art?
Casey: It’s like anything else. When you have someone who is uneducated in a certain subject form an opinion, then you can’t really hold that opinion in high regard. She doesn’t have the understanding or the experience to make an educated statement. So, although she’s allowed to have her opinion, we as people who are educated, we don’t have to respect the opinion of someone who doesn’t have the knowledge, who isn’t educated.
The Neversphere: It’s a bit upsetting to see MMA disparaged in front of such a large audience, but that’s how it goes sometimes…
Casey: I disagree! I think it’s almost amusing to see someone who knows nothing about the sport make this statement. And I think it made her look bad.
She doesn’t have the expertise to make that statement, and she just yelled out a random opinion on the world stage. I think it is pretty stupid to do that in front of the whole world.
The Neversphere: One last question for you Kevin, at the Neversphere we cover music among other things. I know that you’re into music and write your own songs. So, what are you going to be walking out to at Bellator 170?
Casey: Thank you for asking. I’m actually walking out to my single that I finished, it’s called Never; it’s available on iTunes. It’s definitely a smash! I love this song, it’s gonna be a hit. I actually just started shooting some scenes for the music video that I’ll be releasing shortly after the fight.
Look for me to make a lot of moves in music over the next year or two. 2017 is gonna be the beginning of my music and getting it out there and getting a push behind it.
The Neversphere: Awesome man, we’ll keep an eye out. Any other shout outs before I let you go?
Casey: Yeah, shout out to all my training camp, Taylor Ramsdell, all the Gracie family, Ryron Gracie, Kron Gracie for helping out, Antoni Hardonk and Dynamix MMA, Kenny Johnson, Ed Saurez and Joey, and my management over at Black House.
Everyone link up with me: King Kevin Casey on Instagram, King Kevin Casey on Twitter, King Kevin Casey on Facebook.
January 21st, Bellator 170, let’s get it.