Darrion Caldwell

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Darrion Caldwell
Born (1987-12-19) December 19, 1987 (age 32)
Rahway, New Jersey, United States
Other namesThe Wolf
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight135 lb (61 kg; 9.6 st)
DivisionBantamweight (2015–2019)
Featherweight (2012–2014, 2019–present)
Reach74 in (188 cm)
Fighting out ofRedlands, California, United States
TeamPinnacle Mixed Martial Arts
RankBlue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
WrestlingNCAA Division I Champion (2009)
Years active2012–present
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout2
By submission5
By decision7
By submission2
By decision1
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Darrion Caldwell (born December 19, 1987) is an American mixed martial artist currently competing in the Featherweight division of Bellator MMA. He also formerly competed in the Bantamweight division where he is the former Bellator Bantamweight World Champion. A professional since 2012, he has also competed for Legacy FC. He was the 2009 NCAA national wrestling champion at 149 pounds.


Born and raised in Rahway, New Jersey, Caldwell competed in wrestling, football, and baseball at Rahway High School. Caldwell was a two-time All-Region football player, but had his most success on the wrestling mats; he had a record of 146-4 in high school, and was a three-time state champion.[1]

Caldwell continued wrestling at North Carolina State University, and during his true freshman season his record was 20-6. Caldwell missed becoming an All-American by one match, and had one of the best freshman seasons in the history of the school. In 2007-2008, Caldwell went 36-5 and finished in fifth place in the nation, earning All-American status. In 2008-2009, Caldwell went 38-1, and became national champion by defeating 2008 national champion and Dan Hodge Trophy winner, Brent Metcalf, 11-6. Caldwell was named most outstanding wrestler of the national championship tournament, and his only defeat was by injury default. Off the back of this performance, Caldwell was invited to attempt to join the senior-level Freestyle Wrestling world team, despite having little experience in the different style of wrestling. Caldwell finished in third place at the world team trials, and defeated the reigning Olympian at the weight class along the way. In the offseason Caldwell suffered a series of devastating shoulder injuries, which required surgery and forced him to redshirt the 2009-2010 season. Caldwell returned to action midway through the 10-11 year, and was undefeated in 15 matches. Caldwell was the number one seed for the 2011 national championships, but unfortunately suffered yet another shoulder injury in the second round match, which ended his college career. Caldwell finished his collegiate career with a 109-13 record, with 58 victories coming by a pin. Caldwell attempted to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, but the string of injuries left him outside of his top form. Caldwell was eliminated in round three of the final U.S. Olympic trials qualifier, and then decided to pursue a career in MMA. He is the former Bellator MMA bantamweight champion

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Early career: Legacy Fighting Championship[edit]

In July 2012, it was revealed that Caldwell had signed with Texas-based promotion Legacy Fighting Championship.[2]

Caldwell made his MMA and promotional debut against David Armas at Legacy FC 14 on September 14, 2012. For the majority of the fight, Caldwell was able to control the fight on the ground, mounting and taking Armas' back several times. He won via unanimous decision.[3]

In his second professional fight, Caldwell met Quaint Kempf at Legacy FC 16 on December 14, 2012. He won the fight via TKO after dropping Kempf with a left hand and unloading with a series of punches on the ground.[4]

Caldwell next faced Gerzan Chaw at Legacy FC 21 on July 19, 2013. He won the fight via unanimous decision after three rounds.[5]

Bellator MMA[edit]


Caldwell signed with Bellator MMA in November 2013.[6]

Caldwell made his debut for the promotion against Lance Surma on March 14, 2014 at Bellator 112. He won via guillotine choke submission at 0:50 in the first round.[7]

In his second appearance for Bellator, Caldwell faced Joe Pingitore at Bellator 118 on May 2, 2014. He won via submission in the first round, improving his record to 5–0.[8]

In his third appearance for the promotion, Caldwell faced Anthony Dizi at Bellator 130 on October 24, 2014.[9] He won the fight via unanimous decision. He later stated in an interview that he plans to move down to the bantamweight division.[10]


Caldwell made his bantamweight debut against Rafael Silva on May 15, 2015 at Bellator 137.[11] He won the fight by unanimous decision.

Caldwell next faced Shawn Bunch at Bellator 143 on September 25, 2015. He won the fight via submission in the first round.

In his highest profile fight to date, Caldwell faced former two-time Bellator champion Joe Warren in the main event at Bellator 151 on March 4, 2016. Caldwell dominated the fight, winning via technical submission due to a rear-naked choke in the first round.

Caldwell then faced Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 159. He lost the bout via guillotine choke in the third round.

Due to Taimanglo missing weight in their first bout, Caldwell faced Taimanglo in a rematch in the main event at Bellator 167 on December 3, 2016. He won the bout via unanimous decision.

After avenging his first loss, Caldwell was set to face champion Eduardo Dantas for the Bellator bantamweight championship at Bellator 177 on April 14, 2017.[12] An injury, however, forced Caldwell out of the bout. Thus, he was replaced with Bellator newcomer Leandro Higo.[13] Dantas would go on to defeat the latter via split decision in a non-title affair.[14]

The bantamweight title bout against Dantas was rescheduled for Bellator 184 on October 6, 2017.[15] Caldwell won via unanimous decision to become the Bellator Bantamweight Champion.[16]

In the first defense of his title, Caldwell faced Leandro Higo on March 2, 2018 in the main event at Bellator 195.[17] He won the fight via guillotine choke submission in the first round.[18]

Return to Featherweight[edit]

In August 2018, Caldwell moved up to featherweight and faced Noad Lahat in a non-title fight at Bellator 204 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.[19] He won the fight by knockout in the second round.[20]

Rizin FF[edit]

Caldwell took part in a Bellator vs. Rizin interpromotional champion vs. champion bout and faced Kyoji Horiguchi for the Rizin Bantamweight Championship at Rizin 14 on December 31, 2018.[21] He lost the fight via submission in the third round

Return to Bellator and losing the Bellator Bantamweight World title[edit]

In April 2019, it was announced that Caldwell would make his second Bellator Bantamweight title defense against Kyoji Horiguchi on June 14, 2019 at Bellator 222 in a rematch of their Rizin title bout.[22] Caldwell lost the rematch by unanimous decision.

Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix[edit]

On July 15, 2019, Bellator MMA president Scott Coker announced a 16-man Featherweight Grand Prix tournament and announced Caldwell as one of the participants. Caldwell faced Henry Corrales in the opening round of the tournament at Bellator 228 on September 28.[23] He won the fight by unanimous decision.

In the quarterfinals, Caldwell is expected to face Ádám Borics at Bellator 238 on January 25, 2020.[24][25]

Celebratory backflip incidents[edit]

In the last seconds of his 2009 NCAA championship match against Brent Metcalf, Caldwell attempted to celebrate early with a handspring and backflip. While in the middle of his backflip, Metcalf pushed him, making him fall hard on his back. The push occurred slightly after the whistle. Metcalf later apologized, citing a fight-to-the-end wrestler mentality and frustration.[26]

After defeating Shawn Bunch at Bellator 143 in 2015, Caldwell did a backflip off the cage and landed on a camerawoman, whose shot was live at the time. Though knocked down, she was uninjured, and Caldwell apologized.[27]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • Collegiate Wrestling
    • 2009 NCAA Division I Champion (149 lb)
    • NCAA All-American (2 times - 2008 149 lb, 2009 149 lb)
    • NCAA Qualifier (4 times:2007 - 141 lb; 2008, 2009, 2011 - 149 lb)
    • ACC Champion (4 times: 2007 - 141 lb; 2008, 2009, 2011 - 149 lb)

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
17 matches 14 wins 3 losses
By knockout 2 0
By submission 5 2
By decision 7 1
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 14–3 Henry Corrales Decision (unanimous) Bellator 228 September 28, 2019 3 5:00 Inglewood, California, United States Return to Featherweight. Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix Opening Round.
Loss 13–3 Kyoji Horiguchi Decision (unanimous) Bellator 222 June 14, 2019 5 5:00 New York City, New York, United States Lost the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship.
Loss 13–2 Kyoji Horiguchi Submission (guillotine choke) Rizin 14 December 31, 2018 3 1:12 Saitama, Japan For the inaugural Rizin Bantamweight Championship.
Win 13–1 Noad Lahat KO (punches) Bellator 204 August 17, 2018 2 2:46 Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States Featherweight bout.
Win 12–1 Leandro Higo Submission (guillotine choke) Bellator 195 March 2, 2018 1 2:36 Thackerville, Oklahoma, United States Defended the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship.
Win 11–1 Eduardo Dantas Decision (unanimous) Bellator 184 October 6, 2017 5 5:00 Thackerville, Oklahoma, United States Won the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship.
Win 10–1 Joe Taimanglo Decision (unanimous) Bellator 167 December 3, 2016 3 5:00 Thackerville, Oklahoma, United States
Loss 9–1 Joe Taimanglo Submission (guillotine choke) Bellator 159 July 22, 2016 3 0:09 Mulvane, Kansas, United States Catchweight (138 lbs); Taimanglo missed weight.
Win 9–0 Joe Warren Technical Submission (rear-naked choke) Bellator 151 March 4, 2016 1 3:23 Thackerville, Oklahoma, United States
Win 8–0 Shawn Bunch Submission (rear-naked choke) Bellator 143 September 25, 2015 1 2:35 Hidalgo, Texas, United States
Win 7–0 Rafael Silva Decision (unanimous) Bellator 137 May 15, 2015 3 5:00 Temecula, California, United States Bantamweight debut.
Win 6–0 Anthony Dizy Decision (unanimous) Bellator 130 October 24, 2014 3 5:00 Mulvane, Kansas, United States
Win 5–0 Joe Pingitore Submission (rear-naked choke) Bellator 118 May 2, 2014 1 1:32 Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 4–0 Lance Surma Submission (guillotine choke) Bellator 112 March 14, 2014 1 0:50 Hammond, Indiana, United States
Win 3–0 Gerzan Chaw Decision (unanimous) Legacy FC 21 July 19, 2013 3 5:00 Houston, Texas, United States
Win 2–0 Quaint Kempf TKO (punches) Legacy FC 16 December 14, 2012 1 1:00 Dallas, Texas, United States
Win 1–0 David Armas Decision (unanimous) Legacy FC 14 September 14, 2012 3 3:00 Houston, Texas, United States

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kania, Joe. "Wrestling: Rahway's Darrion Caldwell wins homecoming fight in Atlantic City", The Star-Ledger, May 3, 2014. Accessed May 30, 2016. "Caldwell, who won three New Jersey state wrestling title for Rahway just down the boardwalk at Boardwalk Hall, earned a submission in 1:38 over Joe Pingitore to improve to 5-0 on his career and 2-0 since entering the Bellator."
  2. ^ Staff (July 2, 2012). "NCAA champ Darrion Caldwell signs with Legacy FC, targeted for November debut". mmajunkie.com.
  3. ^ Shaun Al-Shatti (September 15, 2012). "Legacy 14 Results: 'Caged' Star Matt Schnell Earns Split Decision Win in Debut". mmafighting.com.
  4. ^ "LFC 16 - Legacy Fighting Championship 16". sherdog.com.
  5. ^ Staff (July 20, 2013). "Legacy FC 21 results: Hobar, Bush claim titles; Garcia, Holm earn knockouts". mmajunkie.com.
  6. ^ "Bellator signs undefeated former NCAA champion Darrion Caldwell". mmamania.com. November 27, 2013.
  7. ^ "Bellator 112 results: Pat Curran taps Straus to recapture featherweight title". mmajunkie.com. March 14, 2014.
  8. ^ "Bellator 118 results: Joe Warren rallies to win interim title fight with Rafael Silva". mmajunkie.com. May 2, 2014.
  9. ^ MMAjunkie Staff (September 30, 2014). "Emanuel Newton headlines Bellator 130 in title tilt with Linton Vassell". mmajunkie.com. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  10. ^ Jason Floyd (October 29, 2014). "Darrion Caldwell planning a move to bantamweight". themmareport.com.
  11. ^ Tristen Critchfield (April 15, 2015). "Darrion Caldwell-Rafael Silva Matchup Added to Bellator 137 Main Card". sherdog.com.
  12. ^ Danny Segura (February 8, 2017). "Eduardo Dantas vs. Darrion Caldwell set to headline Bellator 177 in Budapest". mmafighting.com.
  13. ^ Mookie Alexander (March 15, 2017). "Eduardo Dantas vs. Leandro Higo set for Bellator 177 following Darrion Caldwell injury". bloodyelbow.com.
  14. ^ Staff (April 14, 2017). "Bellator 177 results: Eduardo Dantas takes split from Leandro Higo in non-title fight". mmajunkie.com.
  15. ^ Staff (July 14, 2017). "Bellator 184 set for Oct. 6 with champ Eduardo Dantas vs. Darrion Caldwell, Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Daniel Straus". mmajunkie.com.
  16. ^ "Bellator 184 results: Darrion Caldwell outpoints Eduardo Dantas to win bantamweight title, Emmanuel Sanchez submits Straus". MMA Fighting. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  17. ^ "Darrion Caldwell to face Leandro Higo in title defense at Bellator 195". MMAmania.com. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  18. ^ "Bellator 195 results: Champ Darrion Caldwell taps out Leandro Higo in first round". The 5th News. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  19. ^ "Champ Darrion Caldwell headlines Bellator 204 with non-title fight against Noad Lahat". MMA Fighting. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  20. ^ Sherdog.com. "Darrion Caldwell Knocks Out Noad Lahat in Bellator 204 Main Event". Sherdog. Retrieved 2018-08-18.
  21. ^ Damon Martin (November 29, 2018). "Bellator Champ Darrion Caldwell vs. RIZIN Champ Kyoji Horiguchi Set for RIZIN 14". mmaweekly.com.
  22. ^ "Bellator 222: Machida vs. Sonnen". bellator.com. 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  23. ^ "Bellator announces 16-man field for featherweight grand prix". MMAFighting.com. July 15, 2019.
  24. ^ Damon Martin (September 29, 2019). "Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix quarterfinal fights determined, dates revealed". mmafighting.com.
  25. ^ Farah Hannoun (December 3, 2019). "Adam Borics vs. Darrion Caldwell grand prix matchup set for Bellator 238". mmafighting.com.
  26. ^ "Metcalf apologizes for NCAA wrestling push", from Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
  27. ^ "WATCH: MMA Fighter’s Backflip Off Cage Ends In Epic Fail", by Ross Kelly, CBS Local Sports

External links[edit]