Janay Harding takes on Jessy Miele at Bellator 251. It is happening on November 5th and the card emanates from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The Thursday night broadcast kicks off on CBS Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The featherweight fight takes place on the event’s preliminary portion.
Below are several excerpts from throughout my conversation with Harding ahead of this bout.
Getting in work at Kings Academy of Martial Arts and the Australian COVID landscape
“I think the one thing I’m realizing especially coming to the US is I guess just how much less severe it is in Australia. Has been like small adapting like I mean we have new sort of things like COVID marshaling and a limit on our classes and stuff. So I think it’s like 20 or 25, based on the circumference of the gym and the mat space. We can have quite a few people. I’m super lucky.”
“Kings is such a big facility and it’s run so professionally. We just get temperature checked when we walk in. We’ve got the yoga studio upstairs. So those numbers have been capped as well. I think like 14 but these are all like big numbers considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And I guess I’m very, very lucky again, living in Australia.”
“I mean in New South Wales where I’m living at the moment, we only have two cases in the whole state. So it’s a big, big difference jumping from there to here. Seeing how much more severe it is. I guess how things like compulsory mask-wearing is a lot more prominent than it is in Australia. So a few adjustments but honestly like now that I come over here I probably have dealt with a lot less than the guys that are still living in the US.”
The Janay Harding jiu-jitsu journey and how it’s been a bit of a love-hate relationship
” I think that the environment for jiu-jitsu has had to be almost perfect for me to kind of enjoy it. Sometimes it was sort of just like I was going through the motions and it was a little bit monotonous. Pushing at like the journey and development of jiu-jitsu, especially in comparison to my striking journey. I love striking and I think I understand it a lot better and in a different light.”
“So, therefore, I kind of enjoy doing it a lot more often, I guess. If I have the choice of certain sessions and it’s between jiu-jitsu or striking, a lot of time I usually choose striking. But lucky enough like now coming to a place like Kings Academy, and someone like Elvis Sinosic. Back to sort of my Machado roots back from where I used to train where I first started MMA on the Gold Coast, Vincent Perry.”
“My original coast coach is very similar to Elvis in a sense where they’re a lot older, they have that sort of same, I guess perspective on jiujitsu. Therefore it breeds a really good culture within the gym. The guys that are phenomenal grapplers like some of the best females in Australia are at my gym and I’m so, so blessed to kind of have those guys as my training partners. But, for that reason it’s sort of just been a bit of an up and down. I’ve had to try to find my fit to sort of learn to love Jiu-Jitsu again. I’ve really felt like that’s come out in the last few months being at Kings Academy. I’m super grateful.”
Being part of the big wave of growth with Australian MMA on an international scale
“Man, it’s so fantastic. Someone like me who, a lot of people don’t realize I did start the sport pretty young. I’ve been in the scene since I was 15 years old. I’ve been competing since I was 18 and watching the scene evolve during that time. And just seeing the opportunities kind of grow for those that are in Australia. We are kind of far away from things that sometimes it was really hard to push ourselves into the international scene.”
“It was back then, especially a rarity for people to get signed to these international promotions. Whereas now, we’re clearly making big names for ourselves. From the amateurs to the pros to the guys in the UFC, guys in Bellator.”
“We’re all kind of very, very prominently within the MMA international scene. For that reason, it’s really opening up opportunities for those guys back at home. That are maybe just starting out or looking to venture into a career in MMA. They can kind of see a lot more doors open. I remember when I started, women weren’t even in the UFC.”
“Especially obviously not Australians and then there wasn’t many Australian females getting overseas call ups. So for me, it was sort of just starting and hoping that these opportunities will open up. Whereas the guys now coming through…I really hope this is a great motivator for them to kind of give it their all. Show and prove that we have a lot of really, really high-level kids that are super talented in all of Australia. They can kind of kick it with the international scene at a high, high level.”
Harding vs Miele
Where a win puts Janay Harding in the featherweight hierarchy
“I mean, in a sense it is kind of good that she’s coming off of a loss to someone as prestigious as Julia (Budd). But it’s such a funny division that we kind of have no clear contenders. Like I mean other than Arlene (Blencowe) Of course. She was the most clear and deserving of that last title shot. But in a lot of ways, we’ve got girls that have kind of beaten this person or lost to this person.”
“It’s kind of giving us all sort of a similar playing field. That the clear contention isn’t as important. So it’s sort of hard to read but obviously positive coming away with a win either way. But even more so, knowing that she went to a decision with someone as good as Julia. I guess puts me sort of in the category to start fighting those high caliber girls and really moving forward towards the title shot after this win.”
Contractual dynamics with Bellator for Janay Harding
“Yeah, nothing in cement as per se. But, funnily enough, I think just before COVID hit I actually resigned with these guys for another four fights. So I’m actually here for at least another two years I’d say, especially with COVID kind of pushing everything back. So for me, I feel like that’s the best place for me right now. The best place to develop my experience. Obviously, my always goal is world championship gold. Whether it be in Bellator or the UFC.”
“But mainly in Bellator because I’ve spent so much time in this division so far. I would love to be a world champion. In a division that is like you’re saying so stacked and kind of so prestigious.”
“The depth of it, it kind of gives me a little bit more…I feel like maybe strength. Just feeling like I’m not just a world champion but I’m world champion in one of the strongest featherweight divisions in the world. It would be great to kind of go towards that. But for now, I guess I still know that anything can happen like especially with COVID and everything. We’re just trying to find the direction and I’d love to work towards that title. Within these next four fights but whatever happens after.”
“I guess you never know what’s gonna happen in the next few years. I’m not necessarily tied down to anything specific. But either way world championship gold is on that, the end of the journey. No matter where I go.”
Parting thoughts for Janay Harding
“Sending big love to everyone kind of at home. Who’s going through the COVID time at the moment.”
“I’m sure a lot of people have suffered with the loss of loved ones or loss of their job or the loss of maybe their home. Whatever it is and financial strains at the moment. So yeah, just sending big love to everyone and hoping that everyone kind of keeps their head up and keeps going because tomorrow’s a new day. We can all achieve everything that we need to. It’s just hurdles in the road are never ending but we’ve got to overcome and move forward. So just sending good vibes to everyone.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.