Daniel Weichel is the most experienced fighter in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix, yet he still feels that the tournament is a new opportunity that until recently was not available to fighters in the world of MMA.
It’s not the first tournament Weichel has competed in. In 2014, he won the Bellator Season Ten Featherweight Tournament by defeating Scott Cleve, Matt Bessette, and Desmond Green in just over two months.
Still, the tournament didn’t nearly have the stakes that this one has.
“Of course, the money is a big factor,” Weichel told Drake Riggs of The Body Lock. “And it’s a privilege to be able to make that amount of money and write my own legacy and history all in one.”
Weichel looks forward to killing two birds with one stone; writing his name in the history books and cashing a check for $1 million.
“As a mixed martial artist, when I started competing or when I started training MMA there was not such a thing,” Weichel said. “Thinking about saving my future financially with the sport. That was never my mind and now being on this point, having the skill set, having the will, the mindset to win this tournament and to win this money and to write history is just amazing. It’s great.”
Weichel’s total of 50 fights over the course of his 17-year professional career is 11 higher than the second-highest total held by fellow Bellator 228 competitor Georgi Karakhanyan. Despite this, Weichel downplayed the advantageousness of his lengthy career.
“Of course the experience plays a factor but I don’t think it’s the main thing,” Weichel said. “I always try to take something from every fight no matter if it’s a win or a loss and try to learn from it. But basically, it’s a time where I get my mindset right.
“Especially for this tournament for each and every fight, this has to be nearly to perfection. You have to know mistakes. Don’t let anything happen by accident and get everything right.”
In his first fight of the Grand Prix, Weichel will face Saul Rogers. The 29-year-old made his promotional debut at Bellator Birmingham in May, winning a unanimous decision over Aiden Lee.
After studying his opponent, Weichel doesn’t believe Rogers has the advantage in any area of the fight.
“I don’t need to avoid any area but I think his strength is the wrestling area but yeah, like I said, I don’t think that I have to avoid it,” Weichel said. “Also, I can give him trouble wrestling me by breaking his game plan down and putting my domination on him.”
As for this moment, Weichel is honed in on the $1 million award that is in his line of sight. But capturing the biggest prize of his career likely wouldn’t be the way he’d want to end things.
Weichel may have plenty of miles on his body, but at 34 years old, he still has goals he wants to check off before he hangs up the gloves; one of them being a possible return to Japan.
“Fighting in Japan is amazing,” Weichel said. “I only fought once in Japan when I was I think 18-19 years old, and it was like a smaller show but right now everything blew up. I always watched PRIDE back in the days, of course, I watch RIZIN and yeah, it would be great to make co-promotion fights and we’re open to that, I’m open to that.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.