Cole Konrad spends an alarmingly small amount of time worrying about MMA. Well, outside the cage, anyway.
While the Bellator heavyweight champion slowly moves up the heavyweight rankings and looks for his ninth win in nine pro fights when he meets Eric Prindle tonight at Bellator 70 he actually pays little attention to the sport.
In fact, until a friend told him about it, he had no idea the UFC even was hosting an all-heavyweights pay-per-view card this weekend.
The heavyweights take center stage at UFC 146, which features nothing but heavyweights on the five-fight main card. But a day before that Memorial Day weekend blockbuster which includes four top-10 heavyweights Konrad (8-0 MMA, 6-0 BFC) and Prindle (7-1 MMA, 3-0 BFC) tangle in a five-round title fight at tonight's MTV2-televised Bellator 70 show at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
Konrad is knocking on the top 10's door, so UFC 146 could impact his own stature in the sport.
Not that he's interested, though.
"To be totally honest, I didn't even know about it until a friend mentioned it," Konrad told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) earlier this week. "So will I be watching it? Probably not. I usually only watch if I have a buddy fighting, and I don't know of anyone fighting, so I probably won't be watching.
"I'm not saying I don't have time for it. I just don't want to consume my brain with that. I'd rather just worry about myself and get my crap done."
Konrad, specifically, has reasons to unplug from the day-to-day MMA news and analysis machine. The two-time NCAA Division I national wrestling style brings a dominant and smothering fight style to the game. It's effective in 16 rounds under the Bellator banner, Konrad's never unanimously lost a single one but as other collegiate standouts have found, it's not always a hit with fans.
But shouldn't that dominance still count for something?
"In my mind, it does," he said. "I don't care how you win it's that you win. I don't worry about knockouts or submissions necessarily. I just look to dominate every minute of every round. If it ends early, great. If not, I don't care as long as I win every round."
Still, he knows the criticism is out there. As heavy-handed big men such as UFC champion Junior Dos Santos, ex-champ Cain Velasquez and rising contenders Dave Herman and Stipe Moicic have shown the ability to end a fight in dramatic fashion with a single punch, Konrad grinds away on the mat, where he believes he has the best chance at victory.
"I don't watch TV, I don't surf on the Internet, and I don't read magazines," he said. "I don't see any of it. I don't care what people say about it."
Besides, the 28-year-old Konrad is a mere two-and-a-half years into his pro career. Picking up wins over veterans such as Paul Buentello (29-15), Neil Grove (11-6-1) and Damian Grabowski (16-1) already in his career is certainly a resume-builder.
But as Konrad progresses, he knows he's going to face the same criticism that's met other Bellator notables such as Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler and Hector Lombard (who recently signed with the UFC). Until he fights the best, the critics often say, he can't be considered one of the best.
In time, though, Konrad thinks those fights will happen.
"We're going to meet up somewhere, somehow," he said. "The chips will fall where they may, but I think eventually I will butt heads with the guys."
But would he need to move to the UFC to make that happen? Not necessarily, he said. While the promotion draws a fraction of the UFC's ratings on its current MTV2 home, Bellator makes a long-awaited move to Spike TV (the UFC's longtime former home) next year.
Additionally, Viacom, which recently purchased a controlling stake of the fight promotion, has already committed a number of resources to seeing through Bellator's success.
So give both Konrad and Bellator a little time, and he thinks the MMA landscape could change substantially.
"I really think there's a change going on in MMA," he said. "As Bellator continues to grow, people will understand what they do and that they have world-class fighters too. ... As it stands now, yes the UFC is the most popular and most dominant promotion in the world. But I think as Bellator continues to gain ground, there could be a little shift in the tide.
"I'm not going to say it's going to flip-flop or anything like that, but I think over time, it can be in the same ballpark."