Tyrell Fortune came back from the dead to become an undefeated Bellator heavyweight, but can’t find opponents willing to throw down for the life of him.
Heavyweight prospect Tyrell fortune returns to the Bellator cage this weekend. And when he does, he’ll be getting a long-awaited step up in competition. Fortune (7-0) will be facing UFC alum Azunna Anyanwu at Bellator 233 in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
That’s something Fortune has been looking for for a while, although the motivation remains the same, he told Cageside Press ahead of the event.
“Motivation-wise, it just helps me continue to move forward. I’m always motivated to get back in the cage and fight again,” said Fortune.
Still, he added, “I want to make sure that I’m going out there and testing myself in some way. For me, there’s no point in doing this if I’m not competing, if I don’t have any competition.” Which is why Tyrell, twin brother of Tyree fortune, who has also fought for Bellator, has been stressing the step up in opponents. He’s consistently sought to ensure “that I’m stepping up another level, another challenge,” because otherwise, “the fight’s pointless for me really.”
While Fortune acknowledges that Azunna is a step up in competition, he also added that “I know he hasn’t fought in a little bit, and I recently just found out the reason why he got kicked out of the UFC was for steroids.”
Anywanu was not, mind you, the first opponent Fortune was paired up with for Bellator 233. A widely reported booking had him placed opposite another ex-UFC fighter, Tim Johnson. The fight almost immediately fell through.
“I heard he was injured, he got injured in his camp,” Fortune said of Johnson dropping out of the fight. He’s not buying it though. “I don’t think he was injured. I just don’t think he wanted to fight. I think he wanted some more time off.”
“We both had the same amount of time off, we both fought the same night last time,” Fortunte added. “I won, he lost, so I just think he wanted some more time.” That was back at Bellator 225 in August. Fortune, for one, doesn’t want to wait around.
Finding opponents has never been easy for the wrestling standout, however. The NCAA Division II champ thought that might change once he moved on to higher caliber opponents, but it has not.
“I thought that taking a step up in competition and asking to fight tougher guys, at least there’d be guys that want to fight me, I would have thought,” he lamented. “But it’s still kind of hard finding guys who want to take the fight.”
It puzzles the promising heavyweight. “I don’t know, that’s one part of the business, I didn’t think that that was even an issue in fighting,” he admitted. “I thought that if you’re signed with a company and the company asked you to fight this person, you had to fight them, or you lose your job. I’m still very new to how you play this game with taking fights and match-ups and things like that.”
At the very least, opponents avoiding him is a testament to Fortune’s skill in the sport. “I think the wrestling factor is what intimidates a lot of heavyweights,” Fortune suggested on why opponents don’t want to face him. There’s that constant fear of tiring and getting knocked out, he said.
Anyanwu, at least, took the fight. Although despite the added experience on his record, Fortune sees him as akin to his last foe. “I think I’m fighting a very similar opponent to who I fought last time in Rudy [Schaffroth]. Kind of the same issues in skill set,” said Fortune.
“The only way I see him taking this fight really is if he catches me,” Fortune added. “I don’t think he’s going to try to take me down or go to the ground. Really his only game plan is to try to catch me. Slow me down, and catch me with an overhand.”
As for Anyanwu’s experience, “I don’t think it changes anything. It’s a fight. I don’t think he’s going to look at me and think I’m an easy opponent, so I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in the fight at all.”
Regardless of the outcome of the fight, Tyrell Fortune is a different man today, at 29-years old, than he was just a few years ago. Coming out of college, Fortune attempted a weight cut that nearly killed him. In fact, it pretty much did kill him: he woke up in hospital with a sheet over his body, clipboard resting on his head. He’d been declared dead.
“It changed my perspective on life,” Fortune told us about the near-tragedy. A near death experience like that at such a young age, 25-years old just getting out of college, he continued, “I was nowhere near thinking I was close to dying. Then having that near-death experience changed my everyday life style. I wanted to make sure that I focused on me being happy. Doing the things that I needed to do to succeed in life.”
Nearly dying certainly changed his priorities. But not right away. “To be honest I made a bad decision, and two weeks later, I tried cutting again, and almost went back to the hospital,” he revealed. That’s when Fortune told himself he wasn’t going to cut weight anymore.
Flash forward to 2019, and he’s an undefeated Bellator heavyweight, with the goal for 2020 being to continue that streak. As second chances go, Tyrell Fortune has certainly made the most of his so far.
Tyrell Fortune vs. Azunna Anywanu takes place Friday, November 8 at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, OK. The fight airs live on Paramount Network.