Austin Vanderford can’t imagine himself leaving Ireland without the title.
The unbeaten contender already took some pre-fight photos with the belt before challenging current middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi in the Bellator 275 headliner this Friday, Feb. 25. He liked the way it felt.
Undefeated at 11-0, Vanderford plans to bring some extra luggage on his plane ride home to the United States.
“That would mean everything,” Vanderford said.
“I can’t picture myself leaving Ireland without it.”
Austin Vanderford: “I’m just a different animal”
Vanderford expects Mousasi to bring the best version of himself into the cage. The two-time champion is 6-1 in his seven Bellator fights, including two successful title defenses.
Mousasi’s resume speaks for itself with wins over Rory McDonald, Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman and more. Mousasi is a proven force, but Vanderford considers himself different from the other challengers.
Vanderforf is coming off three-straight dominant unanimous decision victories but is yet to face anyone with similar credentials to Mousasi.
“I expect him to be Gegard and not much will change from all of his previous fights, I’m just a different animal, a different opponent that he is going to be facing up against,” Vanderford said.
Tale of the tape
Vanderford turned to tape of Mousasi’s past fights to find weakness. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who will corner Vanderford, handed Mousasi one of his seven losses back in 2010.
Vanderford looked at more recent video as well, watching Mousasi’s third-round TKO win over John Salter at Bellator 264 last August.
“Even the last one with John Salter, just seeing things where I thought John could have done something different as far as game plan,” Vanderford said. “I feel really prepared for Friday night.”
The American Top Team product is coming into the fight as an underdog for one of the first times in his career. Vanderford still likes his chances of making his vision of coming home with the strap a reality.
“I knew going into it I would be an underdog, most guys who are coming up against Gegard are going to be underdogs,” Vanderford said. “When I go out on Friday and do what I know I’m going to do, it’s going to be more fun if my bank account looks a little better too”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.