INTERVIEW: “Felony” Charles Bennett talks Wanderlei Silva, going to jail, nicknames and Island Fights

Before there was ever a “Florida Man,” there was Charles Bennett.

Among the most athletically gifted fighters to grace MMA in its history, Bennett, despite a mediocre professional record, remains one of the most dangerous competitors in the lower weight divisions.

A veteran of PRIDE Fighting Championships, King of the Cage, EliteXC, ShowXC, CFA and, more recently, Rizin Fighting, Bennett’s almost 18-year career has since mid-2004 been checkered with wins, losses and years-long periods of inactivity.

While his mad-dog antics inside the cage garnered him worldwide fanfare, his behavior out of competition has earned him more trouble than benefit. A long-dormant feud with former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva, which began backstage at an event in 2005, reignited during a backstage scuffle late last year at Rizin 2, and talk once again resumed of a possible bout between the five-foot-five, 155-pound Bennett and five-foot-ten, 185-pound Silva.

There’s no one else in MMA quite like Charles Bennett.

But like his 30-30-2 record, for every apparent step forward there has also been one in reverse. Between 1999 and 2009, the Gainesville-born fighter was arrested 14 times on charges ranging from selling cocaine to aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. In 2013, he was arrested for battery for the second time since that 10-year hot streak of arrests. The charges stuck, and he served two and a half years at Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton, Florida.

Almost immediately after his release, Bennett resumed his career as if nothing had ever happened. Between October 24, 2015 and September 25, 2016, he fought six times for four different promotions, capping off the 3-2 run with a first-round TKO win over Minoru Kimura in Japan.

To mark this new chapter in his life and career, Bennet adopted a new nickname: “Felony.”

Jesse Scheckner: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I know it’s probably a pretty busy day for you.
“Felony” Charles Bennett: Nah. It’s just work.

Well thank you anyway. You just signed with Island Fights Championships. What is the nature of your contract? How many fights are on the deal?
We’re just doing the one fight right now and see how it works out.

And do you have an opponent scheduled yet?
Not yet.

[He has since been scheduled to face Brandon Davis at Island Fights 40 at the Pensacola Bay Center on March 25.]

Are you still scheduled to fight at Tanko FC in February?
What is that?

I saw a posting about it. It was reported on SevereMMA.com, posted on—
Oh, in the UK.

Yes, sir.
Yeah. February 11, It’s going down.

[Sudden, unintelligible yelling]

[Laughs]
Sorry. But yeah… Sometimes I get a little emotional.

Despite being arrested about 20 times in as many years, Bennett has nonetheless amassed a 62-fight MMA career that has taken him all over the world.

No. That’s good. The people depend on that. Now, you’ve stayed really busy since coming back. It looks like you’re really trying to make up for lost time.
Yeah? When you say “coming back,” what you mean, nigga?

You were out of the fight game up until just—I think it was—October 2015 or thereabouts. I think you know what I mean. But—
Then say it, nigga! Say, “You’ve been on a good run since you’ve been out of prison!”

[Laughs] You’ve been on an exceptional run since you’ve been out of prison.
OK. Now I’m taking exception.

[Laughs] For a long time, people were wondering where you were, what was going on.
Fucking jail.

Yeah. So it’s good to have you back. You also changed your nickname. Instead of “Krazy Horse,” it’s “Felony.” What’s the story behind that?
Yeah… Because everyone thinks I’m crazy. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, so I figured if I come out with “Felony” and I go to speaking—and I don’t tell you I’m crazy; I don’t tell you I used to go by that name or anything—when you meet me, you won’t have that persona already embedded in your mind that I’m crazy. All you’ll know is, “Hey, this guy’s got some felonies.”

[Laughs]
“That could be why he calls his name that.”

Well, it’s kind of counterintuitive, but “Krazy” is kind of less crazy than “Felony” is, don’t you think?
No, because “Felony” stands for “fuck everybody left offended next year.” That’s what “Felony” stands for. Fuck everybody left offended. And I came up with this name when I was in prison. I had to come up with my own name that I was comfortable with being called, and that’s what I came up with: “Felony.” And it stands for Fuck. Everybody. Left. Offended. Next. Year. And man… It’s fucking awesome.

I like that.
And the reason being is because my family sent me to prison, man. My family sent me to prison with all the evidence showing that I was trying to avoid the trouble. But I couldn’t, because the person I was trying to avoid the trouble with…they wouldn’t let it go. So it makes it seem like I’m a fucking bad guy because I beat this fucking fat bitch up. But hey, the fat bitch wouldn’t keep her hands off of me, so I retaliated and I’m the bad guy.

What happened, exactly?
I was staying with my brothers and my grandad and grandma’s house. The house is up for airs property. So it’s me, my straight brother, my gay brother and my straight brother’s girlfriend. Me and my brothers, we go to feud. Now, it’s everybody against me. So everybody against me… Shit. My uncle tells me I gotta leave. I’m telling him, “Nigga, where am I gonna go? I don’t have no place to stay, so where am I gonna go?” So we come to the conclusion that, “OK Charles, you can stay there, just don’t say nothing to ‘em.” Alright. I’ll do that. But then it comes to the point where now these people are fucking breaking my shit, they’re stealing shit from me, they’re doing this, they’re doing this. That fat kid keep putting her hands on me. I’m telling my brother to keep his girl’s hands off me. I’m calling my auntie. I’m calling my uncle. Nobody does anything. But as soon as I fucking retaliate, oh, I deserve to go to prison.

What the fuck? Hold on; y’all are my family. Y’all are not her family; y’all are my family. So, that being said, they sent me to prison for three years and now I don’t have a family but my kids.

You never know what’s going to happen when you watch a fight where Bennett is involved.

There were reports—discussions—that there was a fight at your gym, that you left and came back with a weapon. Is that—
Oh, nigga… Hold on, nigga. You way before the time, nigga.

That was before.
That was way back in, like, 2013. Somewhere around there. That was way in New Mexico.

Because that was—
It was a pretty crazy life for me. That’s why I say I want to be an actor. I know I can get in somebody’s movie, man. I’ve done enough stuff—good and bad—that I deserve to move over to movies and filming and acting and making some money.

So yeah, you’ve been doing really well, especially since the latter half of 2016. Rizen and Battleground—getting those two first-round finishes.
Let me break it down for you, again. All my wins now are first-round finishes. August—no, October—against Danny Black [at King of the Cage: Harvest of Champions] was a first-round knockout. And then I turned around and fought Terrell Hobbs [at EWC 9: Takeover], [and that] was a first-round submission; ankle submission.

Then the seven figures in Japan. And then… yeah. That’s what it was. So yeah, it sucks. But it’s mine.

You fought five times last year and have stayed very busy since getting out of jail. It looks to me, at least—tell me if I’m wrong—that the reason you’re only signing one-fight contracts is because you don’t want to be weighed down by long-term contracts. You want to fight as often as possible. Is that right?
No. That’s not the case. I signed a fucking contract with the Japanese that was for five fights, but it was an exclusive with the Japanese.

You’re talking about Rizin.
Yeah. And they killed me. They killed me. So I’m not signing exclusive contracts with anyone because I just got released from an exclusive contract.

So you’re not signing one-fight contracts because you want to fight a lot—though I’m sure that to a degree you do—but because you don’t want to be tied down with any one promotion for very long.
No, it’s not that. Japan just made an offer a nigga couldn’t refuse, man. Fuck yeah, I’m going to jump on that all day, just because I knew that signing up with Japan at that time, and the offer that they were giving, it was the best offer ever. If anyone else wants to sign me, they better be showing like they’re trying to sign like Japan, but not with the bullshit. These Japanese don’t be with the bullshit. These Japanese be about that money. For real.

You recently rekindled your feud with Wanderlei Silva. Where does that stand right now?
I don’t know what’s wrong with Candy-lay, man. I really don’t understand Candy-lay. I ran into… You know, it’s funny. When I ran into Cristian Marcello, fuckin… I’m thinking the same, like, because when we actually sat down to talk, we both was thinking the same shit. The thing of it is, we grow up. The person that doesn’t grow up is Candy-lay. Candy-lay the only motherfucker that doesn’t grow up. Everybody else grows up. Candy-lay, he doesn’t grow up. With that being said, he didn’t grow up, because the first thing he do when he see me is he wanna fight. And the funny part is, when I first seen Candy-lay I was like, “Hey, what’s up nigga; let me get a picture.” And he was like, “Heyyy” when I walked up to him. He was like, “Whoaa. Aw, fuck you. Suck my dick.”

Bennett winning with a first-round TKO over Minoru Kimura at Rizin World Grand Prix on September 25, 2016.

So yeah. But the thing of that is, everybody try to sit there and say, “You were scared,” or, “You were this,” or, “You were that.” You guys know. They know. There’s nothing scared when you have a guy that’s fucking six-foot whatever Candy-lay is, outweighing me by probably 75 pounds. There’s no way that I should be the one that’s scared when, damn nigga, you was lying about all the shit that I was saying about you? Then when you seen me, it shouldn’t’ve been no talking, because you were they guy. You should’ve been at my ass like, “Man, I’m fittin’ to kill this nigga. You been talking all this shit all these years and now I’m just getting to see you again? I’m fittin’ to kill this nigga.” That’s how I would look at it if I was the bigger guy, you know what I mean? That’s my philosophy. But I’m not the bigger guy. I’m the little guy. Therefore, that’s what happened.

The thing of it is, if you look at the whole video, not once do you see Wanderlei—I mean Candy-lay—not once did you see Candy-lay come within a striking distance of me. You know what I’m saying? He kept a distance because he knows. He knows that I possess the power to knock him out. He knows that I’ve knocked him out before. Therefore, don’t get up to close on this guy because he’s got the ability to sleep you and you probably don’t want to get slept in front of all these people, and he’s already said he’s done it.

Are there any fights that you have your eye on? Any particular fighters out there you’d really like to take on?
Not really.

Urijah Faber. That guy.

[Laughs] He just retired.
Urijah Faber, Louis Palomino, Bobby Green. Just a few. Just a few. You know? Just a few.

And how do you feel signing with Island Fights?
Oh man. Somebody texted me. They seen that I signed with them and was like, “That is fucking awesome, dude. Island Fights puts on some fucking awesome shows.” So, this is gonna be good. It’s gonna be good.

“Felony” Charles Bennett faces Brandon Davis at Island Fights 40 at the Pensacola Bay Center on March 25. You can follow him on Twitter HERE.

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Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest performance in film has yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com's editor-in-chief, a feature staff writer for MMASucka.com and the 2014 MMA Media Correspondent winner at the Florida MMA Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.

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