Success can sometimes be negative no matter what the business is, but in the fight business, success is usually best handled by simply ignoring it, because things can change in the blink of an eye. Whether it be from an opponent, an injury, or the promotion they fight for, a fighter's next moment is never guaranteed. That's the beauty of seeing talented and upcoming potential like Bellator bantamweight Raufeon Stots, he's stayed the course.
At 32-years old, Raufeon Stots carries a 15-1 professional record and finds himself inside the top-5 of the Bellator MMA bantamweight rankings. The Roufousport product will look to cement his place at the top of the division's standings at Bellator 258 when he takes on Josh Hill, an opponent with a 20-3 record, ranked inside the top-10, and one of the best fights that Bellator could make in the division.
Ahead of his matchup with Hill, Stots was a guest on the On The Micpodcast and spoke about his upcoming matchup, fighting out of Milwaukee and Roufusport, and his future plans inside the division.
Representing Milwaukee, Roufusport, and the Midwest
In the Midwest region of the United States, there are not many prominent MMA gyms or teams, and in reality, Stots is part of the most premier team in the region, Roufusport out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When asked about what it's like to carry the entire region with him and represent his gym and region, Stots holds nothing but pride.
"That feels pretty amazing, the Midwest has done a lot for me. To be carrying the banner of the Midwest, that feels amazing. I talk about how tough the people from the Midwest are, having to deal with those cold months and type of stuff like that makes tough fighters, tough people, and I'm proud to do that."
With only one blemish on his record, it would be easy for Stots to get caught up in a hype train or to let the spotlight take over but he said his gym and team, Roufusport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has helped keep him grounded and focused on the task at hand.
"I credit it to my environment. Roufusport pretty much made me, my teammates have pretty much made into the fighter I am today. Guys like Emmanuel Sanchez, Sergio Pettis, Bryan Bautista, Christian Rodriguez, a lot of top-notch guys that are holding me accountable every day. I am pretty much my teammates.
A path laid out in front of Raufeon Stots
Preparing for his first fight in 2021, Raufeon Stots will return to the Bellator cage with an undefeated record with the promotion, and now a rankings system that was implemented this year. In the latest release of the rankings, Stots is fourth in the bantamweight division while his upcoming opponent, Hill, is ranked seventh.
When asked about what the number next to his name means to him, Stots said it lays out a plan for his career and no longer allows opponents to avoid fighting him.
"For me, actually it helps me to have a path and not let a lot of fighters sneak their way out of fighting me. There's another reason to fight me. I feel like there wasn't a lot of reasons to fight me, people weren't excited, lining up to fight Raufeon Stots but now that I have a number by my name it makes the deal a little sweeter if you can beat me. For fighters that are above me, you can't run too much longer. Fighters below me, maybe now you want to fight me because I have something you want."
With a number next to his name, there will be reasons to fight those, and a reason for those below him to want to fight him, but Stots says he's not going to be careful, or "protect" his place in the rankings when it comes to picking fights.
"If they [Bellator] offer me a fight, I'm going to take the fight. As far as protecting my number, I'm not too concerned about protecting my number. I feel like if I go out there and perform the way I should perform, what should happen will happen. I don't feel I need to protect my number. I'm more worried about chasing other people's number. I'm down for taking tests, the guys above me, that's where my concern comes. If the guys above me try to want and find the easy way out and not fight me."
Willing to be a bodyguard at the top
At Bellator 258 when Stots takes on Hill, his teammate Sergio Pettis will face Juan Archuleta for the bantamweight title and while Stots inches closer to a chance at gold, he said if his teammate is victorious, he has no problem just wiping away all the contenders and play bodyguard for his teammate.
"I feel like Sergio will be the champion. He's too good, he's trained too hard, he's done all the right things. So, I feel like what I'm going to do is I'm going to play bodyguard for a little bit and I'm going to knock off all the top contenders. I want to fight them all eventually. The type of fighter I am, I've never been the fighter to pick and choose routes to get to certain places. My mindset is I'm fighting every one of them eventually. Once I get the title, maybe I can start lapping people. I'm not trying to hop and skip my way to the top. I want to fight Patchy Mix, I want to fight Magomed Magomedov, I want to fight James Gallagher, I want to fight Leandro Higo, I want to fight all these guys.
Building his way to the top begins with his upcoming opponent Josh Hill at Bellator 258 on May 7, and Raufeon Stots guarantees dominance, excitement, and a second-round finish.