A.J. McKee isn’t the only one living out his dream by competing alongside his idol at Bellator 228.
For Brazilian bantamweight Weber Almeida, this Saturday is about more than just further advancing his blossoming young career — it’s a chance to do so on the same card as his teammate and mentor Lyoto Machida.
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“Wow, it’s an honor for me,” Almeida told Drake Riggs of The Body Lock. “Because look, when I was a kid, I watch him. The big legend, fighting. I had a dream, I said, ‘One day, I gonna fight on the same card with him,’ and the dream’s come true. We are here, the big events, Bellator is amazing, it’s an amazing event. It’s the best events in the world. And I’m gonna get my dream.”
Almeida trains out of Team Machida, and the influence of “The Dragon” is evident when he competes. He employs a similar karate style made famous by Machida, and in his two professional fights, “The Silverback” has shown that he possesses a similar killer instinct.
Almeida hopes to impress his teacher by showcasing that as well as his evolution in his preliminary bout.
“So now I wanna show more different kicks, different punches, you know, in this fight… more of my abilities,” Almeida said.
The fight against Castle Williams also marks another new experience for Almeida. After debuting as a professional in September of 2015 at welterweight, “The Silverback” has moved down in weight for each fight.
His Bellator debut in January saw him compete at featherweight for the first time, and now, he will move down once again to 135 pounds. Almeida believes that the bantamweight division is likely his home for the future of his career.
“This is better division for me,” Almeida said. “Because to cut the weight [is] much better you know, I feel more strong, I feel more confident in this division. Because I usually walking 160-155. So in my opinion for my body it’s better. For my health, it’s better.”
Bellator 228 also features four fights that have big title implications. The second half of the first round of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix will unfold on Saturday, and while Almeida is committed to 135, he’s not opposed to jumping in for a shot at the $1 million prize if the opportunity presents itself.
“The tournament’s amazing, man,” Almeida said. “It’s amazing, I wish to be there. But just step by step in my life. I’m not in a rush but I’m here [in case someone drops out], I’m ready.”
At 31-years-old, Almeida still has a lot of time to start checking off some of his MMA bucket list items. Eventually, he’d like to take the chance to compete in RIZIN as part of Bellator’s continuous working relationship with the Japanese promotion.
“I hear Saitama waiting for me,” Almeida said. “I’ll be there one day.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.