WSOF 8’s Cody Bollinger: “If I Finish Tyson Nam, I’m Fighting for the Belt Next”
It’s New Year’s Day at 5:30 p.m. ET and I’m on the phone with Cody “Bam Bam” Bollinger, the 22-year-old bantamweight from Rancho Cucamonga, CA who skyrocketed to notoriety late last year when, as part of the cast of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate, he failed to make weight and subsequently was given the proverbial boot by UFC president Dana White.
Since then, the 14-2-1 husband and father rebounded about as admirably as possible, signing a four-fight, six-figure contract with the World Series of Fighting. He’ll be competing in his first match with the organization, against noted striker Tyson Nam, on January 18th at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, FL.
Bollinger – who began as many modern mixed martial artists do, as a collegiate All-American wrestler – is friendly, forthcoming and respectful to a fault; he must have called me “sir” half a dozen times during our roughly 14-minute conversation.
Much of his respectful demeanor can almost assuredly be attributed to his relationship with his father, Frankie Bollinger, a former King of the Cage featherweight champion who signed waivers which allowed Cody to begin fighting professionally at only 15 years old.
“I think it all started from wrestling,” he says, regarding his fight career. “I started wrestling, and the reason I got involved in MMA was just to kind of stay in shape while I wrestled during the offseason. I ended up being decent at it and wanted to see how good I could be at it – and you can’t support a family off of wrestling, you know, and MMA’s the next best thing for me – so that was the natural course for me to take. I’m happy. I have a passion for the sport and I’m going to do my best to make a nice career out of it.”
While some fighters on TUF 18 relished their time in the limelight, Bollinger appeared distraught to be away from his wife and young daughter. Though a multitude of precipitating factors undeniably went into his inevitable expulsion from the show, being away from his family was an undeniable stressor.
“Yeah, it sucked, man, coming to something that I didn’t expect to make me so emotional – going on the show,” he admits. “Obviously, I didn’t game plan for that. You know, when I start my camps and I fight, they’re involved in all of it. If I travel out to New Mexico to train at Jackson’s [Submission Fighting and MMA], they come with or they stay at the ranch with me. They’ll come with me to the gym for practice and whatnot, and it’s pretty much a family deal.”
Now, even months after the episode in which he missed weight aired, he continues to receive criticism – at least online.
“On Twitter, mainly, is where I get all the hate,” he says. “In person – in real life – everybody I meet that recognizes me, every single person so far has been nothing but nice, you know? They’ve all been excited and happy to meet me. Everybody’s been really cool in person, so I just try to focus on that. It’s why it doesn’t really get to me on Twitter. If you ever pay attention – if someone is talking, saying things to me on Twitter – I’ll just reply kind of sarcastically, but in person – in real life – is where it counts. Nobody’s ever been rude to me at all, you know? It’s pretty cool.”
The conversation turns back towards the issue at hand – his upcoming bout with hard-hitting slugger Tyson Nam. I suggest that, considering fellow bantamweight Marlon Moraes is a shoo-in to fight for the inaugural 135 pound WSOF strap, Bollinger could put himself in prime position to be standing across the cage from him with an impressive victory next Saturday.
“If I finish Tyson Nam, I’m fighting for the belt next,” he responds. “It’s not set in stone – it’s not written out, obviously, because I have to get past Nam first – but if I beat Tyson Nam impressively and the fans are pleased with my victory, I can almost guarantee you I’ll be fighting Moraes for the first bantamweight belt.”
Hold on… is this something World Series of Fighting president Ray Sefo has spoken to him about specifically?
“I’ve talked to the matchmaker [Ali-Abdel-Aziz] about it. We haven’t really gone too far into detail, but everyone else in the World Series seems to be scared of the guy, and if they deem me credible to fight him for the first belt and they want to give me that shot, then by all means, I’m gonna take it. [Moraes is] a tough guy. He’s earned the name and the fame that he has. He’s definitely a top contender and a great challenge for me, and as long as I beat Tyson Nam like I plan to, I look forward to fighting him next, hopefully.”
At this point, the old adage of not looking past your current opponent couldn’t loom any larger. Sensing this, he addresses the elephant in the room.
“Honestly, man, I hate to sound too overconfident, but I feel I can beat [Nam] pretty much anywhere,” he says. “My clear-cut advantage is my wrestling and my grappling; I can take him down at will. I feel that my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu is above average compared to his. Obviously, he’s got heavy hands – he knocked out [Eduardo] Dantes. But he’s been TKOed twice – three times, I believe. He doesn’t have the best chin. He likes to cover up and throw bombs. I feel that my stand up is just as good – if not better – than his. I definitely feel that I’m more technical on the feet. I may not be able to hit as hard as him – I may not be the knockout artist that he is – but I think I could win in pretty much every area of this fight.
“He’s got one way to beat me and that’s knock me out. I feel like I have a good 10 to 15 ways to beat him and it’s just whatever he gives me – if he opens up then I’ll stay up, but if he wants to cover up and throw bombs then it makes it an easy takedown for me.
“No disrespect to Tyson Nam. He’s a tough guy. He’s a warrior. He can take a beating and he can give one, but I plan to outsmart him in the fight, be the more technical and evolved fighter instead of just making this a brawl. I’m looking to just technically outclass him overall, and I plan to do it quickly, for sure.”
Cody Bollinger will face Tyson Nam in the second fight of the main card at World Series of Fighting 8: Gaethje vs. Patishnock. The event will be held at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, FL. The preliminary fights, which begin at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 PT, will stream live on the WSOF’s website. The main card will air on NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. Click HERE for more information.
Here’s the audio of the interview, in which we discuss other subjects including Bollinger’s mentor, TUF Season 2 winner Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, his teammates at Millennia MMA, what he has to say about his controversial statements regarding President Obama, his goals going into 2014 and some parting words to his fans and supporters:
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