One of the most popular fighters in the Midwest is back in action on Saturday night as Tony Belvedere steps in the cage to compete in the main event of Driller Promotions’ Downtown Showdown 8.
The 125-pounder will be competing at the Hyatt hotel in downtown Minneapolis against a veteran opponent in Josh Rave, who has made a name for himself in the Omaha, Neb., area and throughout the country.
It’s an opportunity for Belvedere to not only get in the cage against a high-level opponent, but also one that he has been looking forward to fighting for quite some time.
“I’ve kind of had him on my radar for quite some time. He’s been kind of a big deal in the Midwest at 125 and I’ve always wanted to get the chance to fight him,” Belvedere told Bleacher Report MMA. “I want tough fights, fights that are going to challenge me.”
A well-rounded flyweight, Josh Rave presents new challenges for Belvedere, who understands that this could be a major breakout fight for his career.
“This is the biggest fight of my life. It’s a huge opportunity and I can’t wait,” he said.
This will be Belvedere’s second fight of the year after he defeated Jon Barker in his flyweight debut for Driller Promotions this past January.
After a surprising non-stoppage midway through that bout, Belvedere won a lopsided judges’ decision. The new weight class felt like home for the Wisconsin-native.
“I’ve always been the shorter, smaller fighter,” Belvedere said. “I barely even had to cut any weight to make 135. 125 is a good cut for me, it brings me back to my days wrestling and cutting weight.”
He was set to make his return to the cage as part of the big CFX show at the Target Center in April, but despite getting into shape to compete, the fight never materialized.
When his original opponent, Zach Wolff, canceled due to a staph infection, CFX promoters weren’t quick to inform Belvedere.
“Zach notified them on Monday before the fight,” Belvedere said. “But no one told me until Wednesday. Then that night, around 10:00 p.m., Nick Gamst [promoter] called and told me that they had found a replacement opponent in Johnny Coleman. They said he couldn’t make 125, but that he’d make 130. They also said he couldn’t make it to the weigh-ins and asked if I’d be comfortable with letting him weigh-in in front of the referee.”
Always one to bring a huge crowd with him to his fights, Belvedere agreed to these terms in order to just get a fight. He went on to make weight on Friday before being informed on the day of the fight that Coleman wasn’t going to show up to fight.
“When I got to the Target Center that night, I talked to Rick [the referee] and he told me that Johnny Coleman never even showed up to weigh-in on Friday,” Belvedere said. “So it was just a big lack of communication by CFX.”
A lack of communication is one thing, but Belvedere believes that it was done intentionally in an effort to keep money in CFX’s pockets from ticket sales that would’ve likely not been there had Belvedere not been competing.
“I felt like CFX knew Johnny wasn’t coming that night. In fact, he fought that same night down in Iowa,” Belvedere said. “So I feel like, as soon as Zach [Wolff] pulled out of the fight, they came up with the master plan to string me along and get my ticket sales, knowing full well that I didn’t have an opponent. We’re actually in a legal battle right now. I’ll be going to court here against those guys on that issue.”
On Saturday evening, however, Belvedere will need to put the pending legal matter in the back of his mind and focus on the toughest opponent of his career. The opportunity is great for this 125-pounder who is looking to catch the attention of the UFC with a win.
“The last guy that beat Josh Rave, Tim Elliott, got the call [from the UFC] five weeks later,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready to fight anybody in the world. I know that I can always get better and there will always be things for me to improve on, but right now I’m happy with where my game is at. I know I can compete with anybody at 125 pounds.”
A win on Saturday will make it nine victories in his past 10 fights, most of which took place at 135 where he was a significantly smaller fighter. Given the relatively small roster in the UFC’s flyweight division, Belvedere’s dreams may be closer than even he realizes.
If he can impress on Saturday night in Minneapolis, fans could be looking at the newest addition to the UFC’s most exciting division.
For more MMA news, fighter interviews and opinions, follow Nick Caron: @NicholasCaron.