Joe Warren has been busy. Bellator announced Monday that the world champion wrestler has signed on for the promotion's featherweight tournament. This weekend, he returned to the wrestling mat for the first time in three years.
Warren talked to Cagewriter and said he is slated to fight on Bellator's first show of the season on April 8 in Hollywood, Fla. He also said that after fighting three times in Japan, he's looking forward to fighting in the U.S.
"We see eye-to-eye," Warren said. "They're excited about marketing me, and it's a perfect fit. I can still fight in Dream and do all the things I want to do."
One of the things that Warren wants to do is win an Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling.
"It's the one thing I haven't done. I won the world championship, Pan-Ams, World Cup, but I need to be training every day to win it."
Warren was the odds-on favorite to win gold for the U.S. in Beijing, but was suspended before the Games for a positive drug test. That sped up his transition to MMA. He had planned to fight after the 2008 Olympics, but with the suspension, he had the chance to fight in Dream. In his MMA debut, Warren beat former WEC champ Chase Beebe and followed that up with an upset of Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto.
'I can call myself a fighter now'
His last fight was a loss to Bibiano Fernandes in October. Since then, Warren has been focused on training for MMA.
"Getting ready for the Dream fights were like cramming for a test. I was jamming so much in," Warren said. "In the last few months, I was able to slow down and focus on my striking and jiu jitsu. I can call myself a fighter now."
He is still a wrestler at heart, though. Warren wrestled this past weekend at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., his first time back on the mat since the suspension. Warren lost both matches and learned that wrestling isn't exactly like a bicycle.
"I wanted to get back on the mat, but I'm still focused on fighting for now," Warren said. "I need to get through these next three fights. I'm excited about fighting. I want to do that every morning. I'm going to go win that Bellator belt."
That determination, along with the wrestling pedigree, made Warren an extrememly attractive free agent. Signing Warren was one more win for Bellator, who has made waves by snapping up free agents Ben Askren, Dan Hornbuckle, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire and Bao Quach. Adding Warren, one of MMA's most decorated wrestlers, is one more feather(weight) in the Bellator cap.