Bellator 251’s Austin Vanderford on ATT Move, Believes PVZ Going to BKFC Will Make Her a More Dangerous Fighter

Think your 2020 has been rough? Well, it probably has been. Still, “We moved to Florida and ironically got COVID from doing it,” Austin Vanderford pointed out during the Bellator 251 media day this week.

Vanderford (9-0) and wife Paige VanZant headed to the sunshine state to join ATT. Training at an affiliate in Portland for years, Vanderford’s own head coach approved of the move, and his manger helped the couple out with everything.

Then, COVID-19. Fights pushed back/cancelled. VanZant’s BKFC debut postponed.

Still, Vanderford is positive that the move will pay off. “ATT down there, is one of those places, especially for myself just being competitive and just wanting to being the best. It’s tough for me to imagine going there and spending like a week and going back home, or a month or something. I think it’s something that I want to just live and breathe it and be there. It just happened to be the right time.”

The right time more or less. 2020 being its unpredictable self, Vanderford returns this Thursday at Bellator 251, where he will face Vinicius De Jesus. That’s after Chris Curtis was forced off the card, also due to COVID-19. And while he’d love to have wife VanZant fighting beside him in Bellator, she opted to go another route. After entering free agency, she chose to exit the UFC — and signed with BKFC.

“She did sign with Bare Knuckle. This was kind of a hard thing. I’m really happy with where things are right now. Of course I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want her to be here and join me in Bellator and all that,” said Vanderford. “But that decision took a lot of soul-searching for her, and she felt like at this point in her career, she needed to make some changes, to continue to compete with the top girls. I think what she’s doing now is going to extend the longevity of her career.”

Vanderford anticipated the doubts that statement would elicit. “I know it sounds kind of ironic because she’s going to fight in bare knuckle, but she’s only 26, and this gives her the opportunity to work on some things. Really work on her striking, be a much more dangerous striker,” he suggested. “Then also on the side, knowing that she’s more than likely going to come back to MMA, to start to improve on some of the things that she can improve on, and to really make her a more well-rounded fighter.”

“I’m biased,” Vanderford admitted. But he also feels that his wife can be “one of the best girls in the world.”

Who knows. Some day down the line, she may prove that in Bellator after all.

Watch the full Bellator 251 virtual media day press scrum with Austin Vanderford above. The event takes place this Thursday, November 4 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on CBS Sports Network.