Amanda Bell and Amber Leibrock were supposed to fight a year ago, but they’ll finally get down to it at Bellator 215 this Friday.
On the Bellator 215 preliminary card, the women’s featherweight division is finally back in action. Amanda Bell vs. Amber Leibrock is the first of several upcoming bouts in the women’s 145lb division — Olga Rubin vs. Sinead Kavanagh and Leah McCourt vs. Hatice Ozyurt go down at Bellator 217 the following week.
Yet Bell vs. Leibrock might just be the one to watch, despite Rubin being an undefeated fighter. Bell, fighting as a pro since 2013, as fought some top featherweights in her time — Megan Anderson, Faith Van Duin, and Charmaine Tweet pepper her resume, and she holds a win over one of Ronda Rousey’s four horsewomen, Marina Shafir.
The bout against Leibrock has been brewing for over a year, she explained to Cageside Press ahead of Friday’s card. It’s just that a number of personal issues, including her mother’s open-heart surgery, has kept her out of the cage.
“I kept in the gym as much as I could,” Bell explained, “but mentally I just wasn’t prepared to fight.” That’s understandable. The good news is, mom is on the mend. “She’s doing a lot better,” Bell told us. Outside of some stomach issues, which the fighter boils down to doctors who “don’t know sh*t about nutrition.” Still, things are good enough that she is comfortable returning to the cage.
During her time off, Bell went back to welding, a trade she started in several years ago. That gave her time to decompress. And focus on another passion.
“I was taught how to weld by a friend of mine, who used to be a member of Animals MMA. He taught me on the job,” she recalled. “It actually became a bit of a passion of mine. I like doing it a lot. That’s kind of my focus and my fallback, you could say, when my career starts to go down.”
She’s begun looking into courses, making plans to be certified in the future. Yet the current focus is the fight against Leibrock, her first since August 2017.
While the time away brings up the ring rust question, Bell said she’s mentally sharp. “I feel very good mentally for all of this. Usually that’s a factor for anybody, and even has been [for] myself at times when I’ve had a bit of a layoff,” she said. “Just that mentality, feeling out of place or unsure of myself.” The difference this time, however, seems to be that “even though I wasn’t able to fight, I was still staying training as much as I could.”
Bell focused on her wrestling during her time away, and even serves as a high school wrestling coach. “Something about that has given me such a grit, that I don’t feel intimidated to be coming back. I’m excited. It’s with somebody that they were already trying to pair me up with anyway.”
“I have every reason to need this fight right now,” Bell added. “Inside I feel very ready. I want this more than anything.” While she admitted that “nerves are there to some degree,” she also noted that “at the same time, I’m feeling a lot more relaxed.”
Weight doesn’t appear to be a factor either, as the featherweight explained that “I’m not somebody who goes on a bender and balloons up because I eat like crap. I actually keep myself at a lower weight, because I don’t like the way I look and feel when I get above 155, 160. That’s literally what I’ve been floating in between.”
Plus there was that welding stint. “Honestly going back into welding like I did in the summer, that will keep the weight off.” Combined with healthy eating, she’s confident that the weight cut is something that’s “not really an issue.”
“It’s a matter of training as if that title fight is right around the corner.”
In terms of what Bell is expecting in the cage, “just overall, it’s going to be a very action-packed fight. She’s a very aggressive fighter. I’m a very aggressive fighter. She’s been working a lot on her stand-up. I’ve been working a lot on my wrestling.” We’ll soon know which one wins out.
Should she win, Bell is well aware of the possibilities. Featherweight is wide open. Champion Julia Budd has been talking about a fight with Gabi Garcia in RIZIN. Anyone with a statement win could be within striking distance of a title shot.
“It’s something that we definitely have been discussing for quite a while now,” Bell admitted. “The opportunities are wide open. So there is a lot of chance for advancement very quickly, and I think I’ve been very aware of that. That’s why I’ve been trying to zero in on certain things in my fight game.”
“In the end, that’s the ultimate goal,” she said of pursuing the title. However, she is staying focused on the task at hand. “I’m not trying to overlook Amber whatsoever. She’s going to be a tough fight, a tough opponent that I respect very immensely. I will go in there with that respect in mind.”
“But yes, it’s a matter of training as if that title fight is right around the corner,” Bell finished.
Don’t miss Amanda Bell vs. Amber Leibrock, part of the Bellator 215 preliminary card this Friday. The prelim action will air on the Bellator App, as well as right here on Cageside Press. The card unfolds at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.