While the UFC has only recently gotten on board with the lighter weight classes, Bellator has been behind the mighty mites from the very beginning. Their first and second seasons featured featherweight tournaments, won by Joe Soto and current champ Joe Warren respectively, and last year, the organization added a 135-pound competition to the mix as well.
Zach Makovsky decided to use the platform as his personal coming out party.
The 28-year-old scored unanimous decision wins over Nick Mamalis, Bryan Goldsby and Ed West over the span of six weeks to become the inaugural Bellator Bantamweight champion. After six months on the sidelines, Makovsky makes his return to the cage this weekend, facing unbeaten Gracie jiu jitsu practitioner Chad Robichaux in the co-main event of Bellator 41 on Saturday.
A graduate of Drexel University, Makovsky outlined his daily routine to HeavyMMA.com earlier in the week, and it’s safe to say he’s had plenty to keep him occupied since his last bout.
“I’m a strength and conditioning coach for all the varsity sports; I help train all the athletes [at Drexel]. There’s a group of three coaches and we train all 16 sports. Working in a gym makes it easy to stop and get a workout whenever I need it, but a typical day, I usually start at 7am at Drexel.
I have the morning shift, so I’ll train all the teams that come in and workout in the morning, Monday to Friday, from 7:00am to noon. Depending on the day, I’ll do a strength and conditioning sessions, come home and rest, and then all the training is done in the evening at Fight Factory, so I train there at nights. I do all my training there. The only other thing I do supplementally is wrestle with the team at Drexel once or twice a week.”
In addition to being surrounding with an emerging team of competitors and veteran female star Tara LaRosa, training alongside Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez at the Philadelphia-based gym helped get Makovsky his initial opportunity with the organization.
“Eddie put in a good word for me with his manager, Monte Cox. I started fighting for Monte on some of his shows, local events, and then he got me a fight with DEEP over in Japan. I fought over there, but I lost, and Monte started putting me on local shows again. I took a last minute fight with M-1; a main event fight in Atlantic City on two days notice.”
Makovsky won his fight with M-1, a third-round submission win over Josh Rave in April of last year, pushing his record to 8-2. At the time, the WEC was the premier organization featuring bantamweight fighters in North America, but Cox wasn’t sure the right opportunity would be available to his talented, young fighter.
“[Monte] thought I would probably be on a waiting list to get into the WEC, where they would call me last minute as a replacement and conditions wouldn’t be ideal. So I told him if he could get me into the Bellator tournament, I’d love do that. Bellator gave me a qualifying fight, where if I won, I got in the tournament.”
At Bellator 21, Makovsky submitted Eric Luke (kimura) in the second round, earning his way into the first bantamweight tournament. Four months later, he had run the table and emerged with the 135-pound title around his waist. While he’s honored to hold the belt and be recognized as the top bantamweight in the organization, Makovsky remains focused on getting better and maintaining his success in the future, starting with Robichaux this weekend.
“I try to just focus on being the best I can be, not worrying about the comparisons with others and where [being the Bellator champion] puts me [in the rankings]. As long as I’m continually improving and I feel like I’m becoming [a better fighter], then wherever I end up compared to others is fine with me. Chad’s obviously a really good ground guy; he’s 11-0 with ten submissions, so that’s obviously his strength. As far as what I’ve seen, I don’t think he’s fought anyone [with the same style as me] or anybody the calibre of the people I’ve fought.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though; he’s 11-0 with ten subs for a reason. I think I have to be careful, but I think I’m well-rounded enough to deal with him wherever the fight goes. I’m not scared to go to the ground with him or stand with him. I think I have a lot of the advantages as far conditioning and speed. I think I’m a better wrestler, a better striker.”
Having gone the distance in each of his last three trips inside the cage, including five rounds in his championship victory over West, Makovsky believes his conditioning and experience in the deeper water will work in his favor against Robichaux, though he doesn’t plan on needing the full 15 minutes.
“I don’t think he’s ever been three five-minute rounds. He’s had ten submissions all in two rounds, and the only fight he had to go the distance was a three, three-minute rounds. He’s never been the distance; I don’t know what his conditioning is like, but I’m coming off going five fives, so I know I can go for a while. I don’t plan on going the distance; I think I have a good chance to finish this fight, but I know I’ll be ready if it happens.”