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Shot at Bellator a big Diehl for Chicago-area fighter

Bellator Featherweight champiPCurran (left) trains Crystal Lake with Joey Diehl.

Bellator Featherweight champion Pat Curran (left) trains in Crystal Lake with Joey Diehl.

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:08PM

When it comes to mixed martial artists, sometimes the story behind the “why” meanders through a spectrum of inspiration, necessity and even chance. The tales as to why a fighter decides to choose MMA as a profession resound in every direction.

Sometimes it’s a bullied kid who learns to defend himself and eventually learns he can defend himself against other professional fighters, sometimes it’s a collegiate wrestler whose sand has run out of his eligibility hour glass and decides to take ‘just one fight’ so his newborn baby can eat - and sometimes you get just a really cool birthday present from mom.

Joey Diehl was 14 when he first walked into Team Curran Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Crystal Lake. Inspired by Brazilian jiu-jitsu pioneer Royce Gracie dispensing men twice his size with his magical martial art during the first UFC event, the Algonquin native would say assuredly how this is something he needs to learn - well, his mother listened.

“My birthday present that year was a membership to the gym,” Diehl said. “She didn’t know the difference between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Karate. When I wore my gi, she thought I was wearing pajamas. But now, she understands it and she’s a huge fan.”

Seven years later, the 21-year-old flyweight (125 pounds) fighter will wake up on Friday facing the biggest fight of his professional life. Diehl joins a bevy of other Chicago-area fighters at Friday’s Bellator 84 event at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. The main card will be broadcast on MTV2, though Diehl and his Naperville opponent Jerald Williams will be featured on the preliminary card, which airs on starting at 5:30 p.m.

With both Diehl (3-3 pro record) and Williams (2-1) making weight on Thursday, the former Jacobs wrestler is now focused solely on his Bellator debut and is not thinking about how his fight - if it’s quick and exciting - could end up on the national TV broadcast.

“This is definitely a big fight, but I can’t think about that,” Diehl said. “I need to go out there and fight the way I know how to. I’m comfortable with whatever happens.”

The conclusion of Bellator’s seventh season will include a heavyweight and lightweight tournament final featuring Richard Hale vs. Alexander Volkov and Dave Jansen vs. Marcin Held, respectively.

When asked about his thoughts on the fight, a jovial, yet calm and focused Diehl added: “I like that it’s in Hammond. It’s nice not having to travel too far.”


Heavyweight Title Fight: Rich Hale vs. Alexander Volkov

Lightweight Tournament Finals: Dave Jansen vs. Marcin Held

Middleweight Feature Fight: Joe Vedepo vs. Louis Taylor (Chicago)

Middleweight Feature Fight: Jack Hermansson vs. Daniel Vizcaya (Aurora)


Welterweight Feature Fight: Quinton McCottrell (Carbondale) vs. Belal Muhammad (Hammond)

Lightweight Feature Fight: Cliff Wright vs. Christian Uflacker (Chicago)

Women’s Feature Fight: Patricia Vidonic vs. Felice Herrig (Buffalo Grove)

Catchweight Feature Fight (215 lbs.): Anton Talamantes (Fort Wayne) vs. Anthony Gomez (Hammond)

Flyweight Feature Fight: Jerald Williams (Naperville) vs. Joey Diehl (Crystal Lake)

Heavyweight Feature Fight: Eddie Castillo (Chicago) vs. Dave Sharp

Featherweight Feature Fight: Robert White vs. Kenny Booker (Rockford)

Visit for ticket details.

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