Knowing he can compete with the best at AKA, Kyle Crutchmer ready for Bellator 233 debut

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Kyle Crutchmer knew the time was getting close not long before he signed with Bellator. He knew a deal to head to the big leagues was imminent.

“I could feel myself getting better, and I could feel myself doing a little bit different things in the gym with higher-level guys,” Crutchmer told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “Once we figured out I was able to compete with those kind of guys, we knew we were ready. It kind of happened real quick after that.”

Crutchmer was a state champion wrestler in high school in Oklahoma and a standout at Oklahoma State University, the same school that produced former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier. Cormier was quick to recruit Crutchmer to come train at his longtime American Kickboxing Academy home in San Jose, Calif., where he’s the wrestling coach.

And that means since setting up shop there, the kind of guys Crutchmer’s talking about competing with in the gym include UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, Cormier and Bellator fighter Ed Ruth, among others – certainly not a bad crew to work with just four fights into a pro MMA career, which was where Crutchmer was at when he signed with Bellator earlier this summer.

Crutchmer (4-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on Friday takes on Robert Gidron (4-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a welterweight bout on the Bellator 233 preliminary card at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. The main card airs on Paramount and streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie. Gidron is an extreme short-notice replacement who stepped in for Antonio Jones just days before the fight.

But right now, Crutchmer is thinking less about the opponent and more about the opportunity he has to show he’s where he belongs this early in his career.

“I always think real big,” he said. “I’ve always tried to achieve stuff quicker than other people. It’s just something I’ve done since I was a kid. It was kind of quick – four fights. I got good experience. I fought some guys that had some wins underneath them, some experience, and I train at the best gym in the world, American Kickboxing Academy. I’m surrounded by guys that are beating the (expletive) out of everybody.”

Check out the full interview with Crutchmer in the video above.

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