It's not often you find lightweights in MMA who can knock you out with a single heave of the fist at any given time. Steve Kozola is that.The 27-year old Bellator standout has made quite the impression. He's 8-0 with 8 finishes, the last seven by KO
or TKO. But his Bellator 184 fight with fellow undefeated prospect Carrington Banks almost didn't happen. His Bellator career was over.
Kozola left Bellator after two impressive wins and headed for World Series of Fighting. On paper the move seems puzzling, but Kozola said it was one he had to make for the sake of his family.
"I didn't hear from anyone. I had no idea why I didn't hear from someone, and I didn't understand. That was a time I really needed to hear from someone at Bellator. My girlfriend at the time was pregnant and we were looking at getting married. All of a sudden Bellator was nowhere to be found. I went to WSOF, got a knockout, and they didn't really know what they were doing at the time," Kozola told Fightful.
Then 25, Kozola met exhausting experiences finding fights with two of the more prominent MMA companies in America. Kozola canned his management and was able to get back into Bellator shortly after.
"I parted ways with (WSOF), parted ways with my management at the time, and found Tiki Ghosn, and I'm back and couldn't be happier. Honestly, whoever who was in charge of (Bellator) hasn't been in touch with me about that. That may have been because of my management in the past. Tiki has a great relationship with Bellator and their staff. Now we have a good contract and we're getting fights more consistency," said Kozola.
While his method of victory isn't the most versatile (he knocks people out), he makes it easy on bookers. Kozola had a particularly interesting stretch in 2014. On March 28 he competed at 145 pounds for the first time in his career on his way to a TKO win. Just two months later, he made the 170 welterweight limit to score a 50 second win on May 31. After a four month break he fought at 155 pounds and finished his opponent in under two minutes. Kozola said that the feat was just a product of him accepting whatever fights he could get.
"It was doing what I had to do to get the fights I needed to get. I'm open to all comers and weights. Give me a name, give me a date, give me a weight class. I'll show up on that date, on weight and finish the fight," said Kozola.
He also competed at 160 pounds last year. He takes on Carrington Banks, also undefeated at Bellator 184, but tells me that he could be convinced to fight at 145 pounds again after he becomes Bellator Lightweight Champion.
Bellator 184 takes place Friday, October 6 from the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Fightful will have full live coverage and discussion, and will talk about the show on their Saturday night post-UFC 216 podcast.