Mark Godbeer (13-4) has announced his return to mixed martial arts.
The British heavyweight retired in September 2018 after competing in the UFC for four years. Contrary to popular belief, it was Godbeer himself who requested to leave the promotion, stating that he had lost his passion for mixed martial arts.
In March, Godbeer made his debut in Bare Knuckle Boxing (BKB), where he challenged for the heavyweight title. The 35-year-old won via unanimous decision, capturing the gold.
Since that bout, the newly crowned BKB champion has a target on his back, with many heavyweights calling for their shot at the crown. As a surprise to many, Godbeer notified fans that his next move wouldn’t be defending the title, it would be a return to the coveted cage.
The former UFC heavyweight has signed an exclusive deal with Russian promotion ACA and will make his debut on April 27.
He spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock.
Returning to the cage
In the world of mixed martial arts, retirements do not last very long. Take Chael Sonnen who retired in 2013 – his plans lasted less than four years as he returned to competition in 2017. Or even BJ Penn, who only managed three years away. Although the odds of Mark Godbeer putting the gloves on again were favorable, it wasn’t expected. Not this early, at least. He spoke about his decision to step away from the sport and why he is calling off retirement so soon.
“You know what fighters emotions are like. One minute you’re up, then you’re down. So I had a couple of issues going on personally and then I had a couple of injuries, [they were] old injuries playing up. [It was] more of a spur of the moment thing, like ‘I’m done’ you know? Then obviously a couple of months later the fire was reborn again.”
“I don’t feel the pressure that I had maybe a couple of years ago,” said the heavyweight.
“Where I’m to now in my career I feel like I don’t really have [anything] to prove, I’m just doing it for myself. And with me doing it for myself now I’m enjoying my training, I’m enjoying where I’m at [and] I’m enjoying the fights. So mentally I’m in a lot better place now.”
The former BAMMA heavyweight champion revealed how his ACA deal came to fruition.
“My management got a hold of me and were like ‘there’s a chance here if you wanna fight for ACA’, and I was like you know what, yeah let’s do it. Let’s give it another crack.”
His promotional debut will be against Sergey Belostenniy, a 23-year-old Russian who will be looking to make a name for himself by dispatching the Brit. Godbeer expects a tough fight and despite his opponent’s age, is not disregarding his ability.
“He’s a got a very good kickboxing base. I believe I’m the bigger guy, I’m taller. He’s sort of a short stocky powerful guy. He’s got very fast hands [and] very good kicks – they just come out of nowhere. I think style wise it is probably good for both of us because we both have that same sort of style of just coming forward and throwing down.”
Every fan loves a brawl, and that’s exactly what Godbeer brings to the table. In 2016 he defended his BAMMA heavyweight title against Stuart Austin, in what was a vintage performance from the veteran – it was a brawl, with both men throwing caution to the wind. Godbeer knocked Austin out in the second round with a devastating right hand, which booked his ticket to the UFC.
Its no secret that the heavyweight craves these type of contests, however, he is considering reconstructing his gameplan.
“I’ve taken a few big hits as of late [so] I might change the gameplan for this one, you never know. I always say that, but it always ends up in a heavyweight brawl.”
Young fighters often use veterans as a way to build their own brand – through beating them, it puts the fans, media, and organizations on notice. Godbeer is well aware that up and coming martial artists are wanting to use him as a stepping stone, nonetheless, he sees this as a positive thing.
“The way I see it is the more people that look at me as a stepping stone or to build a name, [then] the more people want me to fight on their shows, and better fights I get out of it.”
Bare knuckle and ACA champion
On March 30 Mark Godbeer made his bare-knuckle debut at BKB 16, where he defeated Mickey Parker to win the heavyweight title. After his impressive debut, he discovered a new-found respect for bare-knuckle fighters.
“Bare-knuckle is definitely a different ballgame. I’ve got a lot more respect for those guys now because those punches are sharp. My eyes are pretty much healed now but just after the fight my eye was shut right over. You have to have a lot of heart to do that game I think because my eye was closed with a jab – just getting jabbed with bare-knuckle or caught with crosses [is] just a different sort of pain.”
The sport of bare-knuckle boxing is on the rise with various promotions across the world putting together action-packed events featuring high-level combat sports athletes. Also making their debut on BKB 16 was Brad Pickett, former UFC bantamweight. Pickett headlined the card and won via first-round knockout, stealing the show.
Since his debut was a success, Godbeer will be returning to BKB in the not-so-distant future. He’ll have to balance this endeavor with his revamped MMA career.
“If there are spaces in between I will jump in and I will fight BKB”, said the Brit. “There’s a few guys calling me out. I think James McSweeney called me out the other day for the BKB title, I think he wants a piece of it.”
“If they’re willing to match the money I’m getting through MMA fights and stuff like that, then I’ll fight as much as they want me to.”
Mark Godbeer has experience being a champion. He is the BKB heavyweight champion and previously held the BAMMA heavyweight championship.
Since he is competing in MMA once again, he has his eye on the ultimate prize: the ACA heavyweight belt.
“One hundred percent, definitely. I’m looking at making a run in ACA now, and I’ve been looking at the top guys [but] I’m not looking past the guys I’ve got in front of me. If I’m looking at the top guys and I in my own head, I know I can compete and make a run at it. So that is my goal.”
Mark Godbeer is scheduled to face Sergey Belostenniy at ACA 95 on April 27 in Moscow, Russia.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.