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Interview with North Carolina Heavyweight Keith Bell

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It’s only natural for the athletes in any sport to evolve. In MMA, like in boxing, the fighters in the heavyweight division appear to be getting bigger and more athletic every year. Unlike their counterparts in years past, today’s large heavyweights aren’t just stiffs. Some of them are very athletic guys that combine that athleticism with their size and strength to offer a formidable challenge to any opponent. One large heavyweight that is quickly making a name for himself is Raleigh, North Carolina’s Keith “Bad News” Bell. At 6’3 and weighing 265 pounds, Keith one of the bigger heavyweights in the state.  Keith began competing about a year ago and currently has an amateur record of 3-0. This Saturday, May 16th at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina he fights again. Keith’s fight will be part of a large “Battle at the Expo” hybrid card that will feature both MMA and boxing matches.

Rich Wyatt: Keith, tell us a little about your background and how you got into MMA.

Keith Bell: I moved down from Newport News, Virginia about three years ago. My primary background is wrestling. I wrestled in high school and then Juco in New York. As a high school senior in Virginia I was an All-American and got to wrestle in the national championships that year in Fargo. I then wrestled at Niagara Junior College. One of my good friends and teammate there was Rashad Evans. He was a year behind me and I actually got to see him wrestle in high school before he joined us at Niagara. A lot of schools in New York and Pennsylvania were recruiting him at the time. We quickly became friends and were captains on the team. He later went on to wrestle at Michigan State and eventually, of course, won season two of The Ultimate Fighter. I moved to North Carolina shortly after he won on the show and he called and asked me if I wanted to get into MMA. He even flew me out to Albequerque to train at Greg Jackson’s camp with Keith Jardine and Joe Villasenor. The rest is history. I feel like I’ve picked it up pretty quick. Greg Jackson told me that once I turn pro I could join them. Once I turn pro I plan on probably heading back out there.


Rich Wyatt: Where do you train in Raleigh?

Keith Bell: Right off of

Glenwood Avenue
in Raleigh at Rapid Fitness. It’s the only gym in Raleigh, that I know of, with a full cage and boxing ring. They got great facilities and even a hundred Thai bags to beat up on. It’s just a great group of people, man. A great nucleus of guys with no egos. Everyone is there to learn from each other. It’s a good atmosphere for training.


Rich Wyatt: Your next fight is this Saturday night (May 16th) in Raleigh. Who is your opponent?

Keith Bell: I’m fighting Chico Santiago. He will come out fired up after losing his last fight, which should play right into our gameplan. I’ve been competing for about a year now and had actually seen him on YouTube around the time that I started. I’ve been wanting to fight him for awhile now. He is older and more experienced in the cage than I am.  We’ve game-planned well for him. I just focus on getting  ready and preparing myself for any changes he might have made. I can’t wait for this fight.


Rich Wyatt: Is there any other particular heavyweight out there that you’d like to fight?

Keith Bell:  I mean, if the opportunity presents itself and someone is ready to fight, that’s what it is. As far as anybody specific, if I was 1-0 or had no fights then maybe there are some names I’d bring up. At this point, though, it wouldn’t benefit me to fight anyone else unless it’s on the pro level. My goal is to get maybe one more amateur fight, then turn pro.


Rich Wyatt: What dos your training regimen consist of?

Keith Bell: Well, on Mondays and Wednesdays I train jiu-jitsu. Matt and Chris from CrossFitNC are a couple of light heavyweights who are jiu-jitsu blue belts that I train with. We also use Mondays and Wednesdays to work a lot on cardio. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go on the feet. I spar seven or eight rounds to prepare for a fight. My training partners put me through hell. Then when I have nothing left, they put me through two more rounds. That’s what makes a champion. I’m the kind of guy that needs to be pushed and I appreciate that my teammates do that for me. Of course, once I get within a few weeks of a fight, everything intensifies.


Rich Wyatt: What do you currently do for a living?

Keith Bell: I work at Crowleys Bar and Lounge in Raleigh and work the door. My wife is very supportive and allows me a lot of time training. She works a full schedule and has been great to support me while I continue to work toward my goal of turning pro in MMA.


Rich Wyatt: So Keith Bell is a kept man, huh?

Keith Bell: (Laughs) That’s right, man. Seriously, though, hopefully I can return the favor if I can reach the goals that I want to reach in this sport.


Rich Wyatt: What drives you as a fighter?

Keith Bell: Well, I’m a driven person and loved the sport anyway. My baby just turned 6 months old last Thursday. That’s another reason this has become a lot easier for me. As a fighter, you don’t want to have to find yourself asking “why do I fight?” That little girl drives me. She makes it a lot easier for me to work harder.


Rich Wyatt: I’m with you on that. I’ve got a seven month old of my own. How has it been adjusting to less sleep?

Keith Bell: She still hasn’t gotten to the sleeping through the night phase. It’s funny. You just adjust and get used to it.


Rich Wyatt: What are your thoughts on the North Carolina MMA scene, and are there any fighters out there that we should be keeping an eye on?

Keith Bell: Well, right now I’d say that North Carolina has a lot happening in terms of promoting the sport. Doug Muhle, who I’ve fought for in the past, runs Carolina Fight Promotions and they have done a good job promoting the sport. The AFL has done some shows out in Elizabeth City. Southern Fight League is brining in some good fighters. As far as fighters to keep an eye on, I’d mention Tomar Washington (4-0). He is definitely a good fighter. He’s got the complete package. He’s just dropped down to 205 and should be dangerous at that weight.  I’d also mention welterweight fighter Pete Martin (4-1).


Rich Wyatt: What do you think of the UFC reportedly doing a season of The Ultimate Fighter with heavyweights next season?

Keith Bell: Man, I wanted to try out for TUF 10 but I’ve heard that they were only looking for heavyweights at 225 or below. If you look at the UFC’s heavyweight division right now, most of the good young up-and-coming fighters weigh considerably more than that. Guys like Velasquez, Carwin and Lesnar all weigh a lot more than 225.



Rich Wyatt: Who do you like in the main event on May 23rd? Rashad Evans or Lyoto Machida?

Keith Bell: I don’t think either is going to touch each other much early because of the way their styles match up. Everyone who thinks Rashad has no shot is fooled. Lots of people never gave the guy a chance on The Ultimate Fighter. Then folks said “No way he beats Chuck Lidell.” Chuck is just now waking up from that fight. Then it was “There’s no way he beats Forrest.” I look at this fight as a matchup of Greg Jackson’s team against Machida. Greg and those guys are the best strategists in the sport today and I’m picking Rashad because of that.


Rich Wyatt: Any parting thoughts or anyone that you’d like to thank?

Keith Bell: I’d like to thank my buddy Mark over at Oak Grove. I’d also like to thank Dom at Drivn Industries. Check them out at They’re an up-and-coming clothing line. I also want to mention Cageside and thank them for their support. They help out a lot of fighters here in North Carolina, including me. would like to thank Keith Bell for taking the time to talk with us and we wish him the best of luck in his upcoming fights.