Steve Kozola is riding extremely high right now. He was recently victorious at Bellator 202, besting Ryan Walker in the first round with a TKO to emphatically snap a two-fight losing streak. His next venture is to enjoy a 2+ week vacation in the Bahamas with his wife and young son to celebrate and heal up as he decides on what comes next.
To say “Thunderbeast” Kozola had a lot of pressure coming into the Walker fight is a gross understatement. After his most recent loss earlier this year, Bellator actually cut him despite having one more fight left on his contract. To make ends meet for his young family, he worked as a manager and trainer at a gym, which took up a lot of the time he needed to be training in order to make his comeback. On top of all this, he ended up moving the week before the fight. As he tells it, he never would have made it to fight night without the unwavering support of his wife.
“It’s hard man. I have to give a shout out to my wife right now, Ashlee Kozola. She’s everything, she’s the one that holds it down… If it wasn’t for her, like, I would actually be out in the street, man. I couldn’t deal without my wife.”
Despite everything going on outside the cage at Bellator 202, Kozola’s thoughts were perfectly pure in Thackerville that night. All of the struggles he had endured dating back to his first loss in October 2017 at Bellator 184 all the way up to now could be easily washed away if he could just do one thing. Win. Kozola said his game plan was beyond simple. In fact, he summed it up in just 3 words:
“Beat that man. Beat that man in front of you, and everything else goes away. You trained to beat that man, you expect to win….Go in there, set the pace, control the setups, and come out with a victory for your family.”
Now, even though he’s literally basking in the glow of his latest victory in the form of the pristine Bahamian sun, Kozola remains humble. To him, the lessons of the past shouldn’t be quickly forgotten just because things are currently going his way. Talking about what made the difference between his last loss and this victory, he said:
“I just had some lessons to learn, I had some growing up to do as a fighter. I’m still here, I’m still dangerous, I’m still worthy to be noted as one of the best fighters out there.”
With fighters freely hopping between the UFC and Bellator these days, Kozola now has the opportunity to switch promotions after closing out his contract on a high-note. To hear Kozola tell it, he doesn’t plan on going anywhere:
“You know, right now, I have such a great relationship with Bellator that that’s all I’m focused on right now. I want to make things good with them…Even after releasing me, which hurt at first, they brought me back, which I’m super thankful for…they’re like hey, we believe in you, too. There’s no reason for me to look anywhere else right now.”
You can listen to the entire interview with Steve Kozola below:
Or listen on Podomatic below:
I’m the “Professor” from the SFLC Podcast. I watch the fights, I give my two cents, and try to improve everyone’s understanding and enjoyment of the crazy sport that is MMA.