Thriving in and out of the cage, 26 year old Harding feels within the year, she will compete for the title.
Although only competing once in 2020, Bellator’s Janay Harding has been thriving inside and out of the cage in the last year. With a sponsorship with Bose, and being part of the Mulan remake for Disney, closing out the year with a win in the cage was only the icing on the cake. Her first appearance since November of 2019, Harding felt the pressure of needing a win in the 145lb division.
“This was super important for me,” Harding told Cageside Press recently. “After a loss, I proved myself in a division that’s stacking up more and more. I’m always the underdog, she was the BJJ black belt,” Harding continued. “It means everything, mentally it puts you on a good high.”
The 26 year old New Zealander knew she was the underdog heading into Bellator 251. Miele had just fought the former champion Julia Budd, while Harding had been on the sidelines for over a year. Still the Kiwi fighter (who fights out of Sydney, Australia) embraced and thrived in the role.
“I don’t know if there’s been one fight where I haven’t been the underdog,” Harding laughed. “Whether I love it or hate it, I enjoy it, it’s normalized. The only person that is going to believe in you is you, no one should believe in you more than yourself.”
And that keeps Harding motivated. “It gives me more motivation, eventually I’m working to the point where I’m the favorite, the champion.”
Harding believes that she isn’t far from competing for the title, and even in this newly stacked division, feels her name is among the top athletes after the Miele victory. When asked how close she is, the simple answer is “very close.”
“Very close, in the next year or so, I’ll see Cris Cyborg or Julia Budd across the cage from me. I’m excited for it.”
In the mean time a name that excites Harding is a name that has been brought up along with her own for some time, Leah McCourt. McCourt stands at 4-1 currently and is healing up from an injury, hopefully to return sometime this winter. Harding loves the idea of starting 2021 with that fight.
“It’s definitely an exciting fight for me,” Harding explained. “Especially going over to the UK, the underdog thing, coming in and getting the upset. Going to people’s hometowns motivates me a lot. I hope her [McCourt] surgery went well so we can start getting this in the pipeline and getting a locked in date.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator featherweight Janay Harding above. Harding speaks on her past year outside of fighting, working with Disney and Bose, and gives some travel tips for those looking to see Australia for the first time!