LOS ANGELES — Juan Archuleta will have T.J. Dillashaw in his corner when he meets Ricky Bandejas on Saturday night in a bantamweight main card bout at Bellator 214.
So you better bet Archuleta, who was out in New York last week with Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight champion’s loss to flyweight titleholder Henry Cejudo at UFC Brooklyn, has his teammate’s back about the fight which was ruled a TKO loss in 32 seconds.
“Of course I thought it was stopped too soon,” Archuleta said at Thursday’s Bellator 214 media day. “But there’s nothing you can do about it now. I know what it’s like to lose, and I know what it’s like to lose when you didn’t think you should lose, so we’re going to pull him out of it. He’s a trooper, he’s a champ.”
Dillashaw is such a reliable teammate, in fact, that Archuleta said he was back helping him train for the fight with Bandejas as soon as Dillashaw returned to Southern California.
“He’s been with me all week helping me get ready for my fight, ready for me to come back and get the win back,” Archuleta said. “He has moved on. That’s what his surroundings are for. That’s what we’re here for, that’s what his family is for. That’s what he’s training for.”
Being part of such a tight-knit group may help explain why Archuleta has been able to put together the sort of run he’s been on. Since losing a bout in World Series of Fighting in 2015, Archuleta has strung together 16 consecutive victories, eight via finish, with the last three bouts coming under the Bellator banner.
The 31-year-old Archuleta (21-1) said the loss made him decide it was either now or never, and the former union electrician vowed to commit full-time to MMA.
“After my loss I was just re-evaulating my goals, and changing gears on some things in my life,” Archuleta said. “I was working a full-time job, working 10 hours a day and then going in for training 5-6 hours in between my work schedule and driving all over the place. And when I fully bought in and said this is what I’m going to do with my life, I’m going to dedicate myself to being a fighter, it’s been paying dividends — and its not worrying the win or loss, it’s about going out there and putting on a show for the fans, because at the end of the day, they don’t give a shit if you win or lose. They just want to see you go out there and give it your all.”
Archuleta immediately started seeing results. But this fight still represents a step up. His previous three bouts have been on Bellator’s Temecula/Thackerville casino B-show circuit. This is The Forum, a major card with the legendary Fedor Emelianenko headlining.
“This is what I do, this is my profession and this is what I do every day,” Archuleta said. “A lot of people ask about nerves and stuff. I’ve been working in the electrical union and I said look, man, I know what I was doing when I was hooking up some of these breakers and some of these amps, and all these circuits. This I what I went to school for. This is what I go to school for now. This is what I live for.”
That’s a solid attitude to have, because Archuleta finds himself in there in a bout which could have championship implications, against an opponent in Bandejas who just got done derailing the James Gallagher hype train.
“Ricky is a gamer, he’s a f*cking beast,” Archuleta said. “He’s going to try to rip my head off like he did with Gallagher. He’s going in there and going to try to fight his fight, and at this point I think the fight is going to be for a world title.”