NEW YORK – While basking in the glow of victory over Sebastian Ruiz in a bantamweight (135 pounds) preliminary fight during Bellator 222 on Friday night, Mike Kimbel was regaling the scrum of reporters at his post-match press conference about a former teacher that doubted his dream of becoming a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
While a student at Crosby High, Kimbel gave a presentation about the battle to legalize MMA in New York and Connecticut. His teacher joked that he had a better chance of reaching the NFL than Kimbel did becoming a professional fighter.
Standing in a back area of Madison Square Garden, Kimbel still hadn’t forgotten the slight. The significance was not lost on the 22-year-old from Waterbury.
“It was a bit unreal walking in the streets, looking at the Garden out of my hotel room like, ‘I said I was going to do this and I’m doing it at 22 on the biggest stage with probably the most pressure any teenager – not even teenager, I forget, sometimes I think I am – that any 22-year-old can go through,” he said.