Austin Vanderford has steadily climbed the ranks of the Bellator middleweight division, and now the undefeated American says he’s ready to assume the mantle of champion.
Vanderford heads into the main event of Bellator 275 on Friday night in Dublin with an unblemished 11-0 record as he prepares to challenge two-time Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi for the title at the 3Arena.
Ahead of the bout, Vanderford said he’s going to relish competing in one of the most atmospheric venues in combat sport, and plans to feed off the energy of the Dublin crowd as he bids to capture his first major title.
“I’m looking forward to Friday night and going out and putting on a show,” he said during media day in Dublin.
“I’ve been told by numerous people that this arena is the best crowd in MMA and in combat sports. I’m looking forward to feeling the energy and going out and performing.”
While Vanderford is still relatively young in his MMA career, his opponent is a legend of the game, who has competed across generations for promotions across the globe.
It’s a challenge Vanderford said he’s looking forward to, as he puts his skills to the test against one of the most seasoned elite-level fighters in the sport.
“I expect Gegard to be Gegard and that not much will change from all of his previous fights,” he said.
“I’m just a different animal and a different opponent that he’s going to be facing. I feel good, I’m confident and I’m excited for Friday night.
“It would mean everything to get that belt. I was holding it for photos the other day and I just can’t picture myself leaving Ireland without it.”
The gap in experience between the pair has led to Vanderford being installed as the betting underdog for the fight. But that tag sits with him just fine, as he heads into the bout without the added pressure of outside expectation.
But, make no mistake, Vanderford is convinced that he’ll leave the 3Arena with a shiny new belt and some extra dollars on his paycheck.
“I knew going into this fight that I would be an underdog, for sure,” he said.
“Most guys that are gonna come up against Gegard are going to be underdogs, so I was aware that’s what was going to happen.
“It’s kind of a fun position to be in, honestly, to maybe be slightly overlooked.
“When I go out on Friday and do what I know I’m going to do, it’s just going to be more fun and my bank account might look a little better too.”
Bellator 275/Bellator Dublin: Fight Card
- Gegard Mousasi (c) vs. Austin Vanderford – for middleweight title
- Sinead Kavanagh vs. Leah McCourt
- Ciaran Clarke vs. Abou Tounkara
- Khasan Magomedsharipov vs. Jose Sanchez
- Brian Moore vs. Jornel Lugo
- Brett Johns vs. Khurshed Kakhorov
- Charlie Leary vs. Davy Gallon
- Danni McCormack vs. Stephanie Page
- Darragh Kelly vs. Junior Morgan
- Vladimir Tokov vs. Danielle Scatizzi
- Gorkhan Saricam vs. Kirill Sidelnikov
- Nathan Kelly vs. Scott Pedersen
- Lee Hammond vs. Jamie Hay