Highly decorated kickboxer Gabriel Varga steps into the world of MMA for the second time at Bellator 239.
It isn’t often that a world champion in combat sports is relegated to the prelims of an event, but that is what is happening this Friday at Bellator 239 inside the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Gabriel Varga isn’t just a world champion, he is a six-time kickboxing world champion. The Canadian, who recently turned to MMA, will be stepping inside the Bellator cage for a second time when he squares off with TeeJay Britton.
Varga, who is the reigning Bellator kickboxing featherweight champion stated that he turned to MMA when he was unable to find a suitable opponent for kickboxing. The 34-year-old, who has competed in both K-1 and Glory kickboxing made his debut in MMA last July at Bellator 224 when he defeated Jamese Taylor III via second-round TKO.
“My first fight was hard for my wife,” Varga told Cageside Press. “She has been dating me since I was pretty far into my kickboxing career. When it comes to nerves, she has never seen me freak out. I got pretty nervous and grumpy and I shut down when I get nervous and she had to experience that. I went through the same thing again about a month ago. I was like ‘oh shoot I’m doing this again. It is scary and new.’ Kickboxing I can just jump right in with anybody. I am so confident in my defense and I am so confident in different aspects. I get nervous of course but I am not scared. These ones scare me. I would like that to go away but I am going to have to deal with it. It is a reality. It is different sports and everything changes.”
Varga, who has been training with ONE Championship bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes for this fight, stated that he has been working intensely on his wrestling and submission game but pointed out that he also had to make changes to transition from kickboxing striking to MMA striking.
“Striking for my side is somewhat beneficial. In my last fight, I was able to land body shots quiet well. The same in sparring, the body is much more open and it is much more damaging to hit somebody with those four-ounce gloves. The fact that I am the striker, I should be able to take advantage of having four-ounce gloves on. The defense is entirely different though. Normally my defense game is to keep my hands at my head, a little bit of movement by lifting the elbows up to get the forearms to block it. I can’t do that now. So it if different. It is not as scary as being brought down though.”
Varga’s opponent, Britton is a 37-year-old professional, who flaunts a 5-2 record. The Joplin, Missouri native has recently competed in the LFA.
“I know everything I can about him that is available online,” Varga said. “I know he is exceptionally tall, especially for this weight class. I think he is 6’4″. He has a bit more of a ground game than the last guy. We have been working a lot of stuff on the ground. My jiu-jitsu coach likes to look at all the videos and work off things he has done in the past. And obviously we are looking for all the holes.”
Varga predicted that he would get the win on Friday but isn’t predicting what the future holds. He stated that he will continue to compete in kickboxing but isn’t completely settled on MMA yet.
“I am always honest about things,” Varga said. “I don’t know how this MMA thing is going to play out. I come to win, I train super hard. I expect to win every fight but to say I am going to be super successful in MMA, I don’t even know if that is a reality… All I can do is keep training and do my best.”