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[EXCLUSIVE] Bellator’s Joe Warren Talks Bellator 98 Health Scare, Getting Back to Fighting, and the Return of Olympic Wrestling

(Photo via Bellator)

By Elias Cepeda

Former Bellator champion Joe Warren was set to face Nick Kirk earlier this month at Bellator 98 in Connecticut before the state’s commission refused to allow him to fight. The exact reason was not given at the time but speculation from fans and members of the media as to why Warren was barred from fighting abounded.

Some wondered if Warren had tested positive for marijuana as he had during his competitive wrestling days. Even Bellator’s CEO Bjorn Rebney volunteered a theory – that Warren had been knocked out during his training camp and so was not being allowed to fight because of brain damage. Just two fights ago, of course, Warren was hurt badly in a KO loss to Pat Curran. That was his second straight KO loss.

Warren has since been cleared to fight in tonight’s Bellator event and he and Kirk will square off in this season’s bantamweight tournament. CagePotato visited with Warren as he cut weight Wednesday.

Not knowing how else to get into the matter with Warren as he stepped out of the sauna we simply had to ask, “What the heck happened?”

“A big mess happened,” Warren said.

“The Connecticut commission is stricter than most and I had a CT scan and MRI done leading up to the fight. I had three different doctors telling me different things. They didn’t read the images correctly and thought I had an abnormality on the image of my brain. One was telling me I had had a stroke, one was telling me I’d never fight again. Crazy stuff. Another said that I was fine. I was running around for weeks getting different tests done out of my own pocket, my family was scared. It was a huge ordeal.”

Given the brutal nature of Warren’s losses combined with his lifetime in combat sports and relatively advanced age, one could argue that CT scans and MRI imaging exams before each fight are great ideas. Warren insists that he is fine, however, and of course so does the Oregon commission overseeing his fight with Kirk tonight.

The fighter also says that he was not knocked out at any point during his most recent training camp, as was earlier reported. “I saw those things being written and it was just nuts,” he tells us.

“This whole camp has been focused on my not taking damage, actually. We’ve been very careful and safe and it has gone great.”

With all the confusion behind him, Warren has had scant time to focus on his opponent. The former world champion Greco-Roman wrestler has a lot of respect for his younger opponent and looks forward to just competing.

“He’s a tough, well-conditioned guy,” Warren says of Kirk.

“And, he’s a wrestler so you can never overlook him. I just want to go in there, lay hands on him and put him down. Beating Nick Kirk will get me a step closer to that belt again.”

One recent news item has made Warren particularly happy – The International Olympic Committee’s decision to once more include wrestling in the games. “Wrestling was the first Olympic sport,” he says.

“There might as well not be an Olympics without wrestling. When I was a kid, I dreamt of being in the Olympics. Wrestlers need that to work towards.”

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