American Top Team teammates Steve Montgomery and Cristiano Souza trained ferociously together for the 32-man debut season of Bellator MMA's "Fight Master." The fairness of having teammates fighting at the highest levels of the sport in title bouts or contender bouts is a matter of some dispute; however, having the pair fight in the opening round just to get onto to the show came as a shock.
Souza scored a first round KO over his teammate, and then broke into tears at what the loss meant to his friend.
"I had this caged-animal-type posture because I had so much aggression that I was ready to let out," Montgomery told MMAjunkie.com. "I was ready to find out who I was fighting, and I was really excited. For them to call me out against my teammate, my posture just dropped."
"Cristiano and I had an eight-week training camp together and really pushed each other. We flew out to New Orleans together to film the show and were talking about gameplans together, obviously. I mean, we were teammates.
"We put a lot into the show together, and we didn't find out until Friday around noon at weigh-ins that we were fighting."
"We really didn't know what to think about it. We really tried to push (matchmaker) Sam Caplan and some of the other people from Bellator to change the matchup, but they said that they couldn't because of the commission. What I didn't like about that was there were a couple of guys who had their opponents back out, so they brought in replacements to fight on a day's notice. So how could the athletic commission allow those replacements but not let us change the matchup? We just wanted to know why we were fighting.
"There were even people on the Bellator staff who didn't seem to be happy about the matchup. They saw that it ruined our whole aura. It ruined the good energy we had. Before that, the interviews were going well. We were excited. All the people on the show seemed pretty cool. We were just ready to go – on weight, trained hard. And then to throw us that curveball threw me off mentally."
"We were talking before the fight, and we said, 'You know what? It's 11 a.m. That's what time we usually do MMA ground and pound class back home. Let's just make it a hard ground-and-pound class. We kind of laughed, and that was it. But I just couldn't get off first. There was a huge mental block.
"When I fight, I really am a killer. I go out there looking to come out with my hand raised or go out on my shield. It's just one of those two things. It's no other option. To go out there and not really be myself, it didn't feel right. I couldn't get the right endorphins and excitement before our fight."
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Bellator offered Montgomery a fight, but not until September. Montgomery asked for and received a release from the promotion. He has had a fight since, winning via submission in just one minute.
So would he fight for Bellator again?
"I definitely felt shorted," said Montgomery. "But I wouldn't mind showing them what they missed out on."
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