Bellator 257: Lance Gibson Jr. on Fighting, Fishing, and Family

Lance Gibson Jr. Bellator 257
Lance Gibson Jr vs Jones Credit: Bellator MMA

Canada’s Lance Gibson Jr. sports his father’s fighting nickname, “Fearless” — but it wasn’t simply a hand-me-down from his dad.

“It was kind of interesting, because it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t even passed on. It just made itself,” Gibson (3-0) told Cageside Press ahead of his return to the cage this Friday at Bellator 257.

“When I was fighting, I didn’t start out with a nickname. As time goes on, we don’t really throw it out there, but it organically came to me,” the undefeated lightweight explained. “Obviously it was my dad’s nickname, so I love the idea of it, but I knew what it took to get to that stage. So it was kind of earned at the end of the day, through my wrestling and my fighting.”

Lots of the talk surrounding Lance Gibson Jr.’s career to date has been about family. The 26-year old trains under father Lance Sr., a UFC veteran, and alongside stepmom Julia Budd, the former Bellator women’s featherweight champion, who is also in action this Friday.

You might expect being surrounded by the fight business on all sides to become overwhelming now and then, but Gibson told us ahead of his fight against Marcus Surin that “I’ve kind of just accepted the fact that it’s my life. At the end of the day, I know how to unplug and I know how to disconnect from everything. But I know how to turn that switch on at any moment.”

The ability to switch on and off like that, “it’s probably from being around the sport my entire life,” he explained. His father, after all, competed in the UFC, Shooto, and elsewhere in the late 90s and early 2000s. “I’ve seen circumstances that a five or four year old wouldn’t normally see, like being in the corner with a bucket,” continued Gibson. “Seeing somebody in a fight struggling and not being able to turn that switch on, I learned from a young age — I know what that punch means, I know what this means, I know what that means. So it’s kind of just become a natural process for me, and it’s normal. I love it.”

Of course, we all have our side projects. For Gibson, that’s taking time off to do a bit of fishing. And that doesn’t mean throwing a worm in the general direction of a bass. Gibson, rather, goes deep, fishing for everything from Salmon to Ling Cod.

And before you think it’s all fun and games, know that Gibson is driven to work hard even when out on the boat. “When I switch over to that, I really enjoy myself, I kind of relax, but I also put the work in out there,” he stated. “It’s not all relaxing, because when you’re on a boat, you’ve got to work the lines and make sure you actually catch a fish.”

From what we’ve seen, the fighter has caught plenty. “I love it, it ties a lot to my mixed martial arts for sure,” he added. Gibson’s grandfather Ron taught him how to fish from a young age, and it became something he, his father and grandfather shared. After a break, he got back into it “later on in my life, and I’ve just been completely addicted to it.”

The focus right now is on fighting, however. The Bellator 257 card, where both he and stepmom Budd will compete. In years gone by, Gibson had dismissed the idea of fighting on the same card as Julia Budd. But in these unprecedented times, he noted, “I’ve got to eat my words.”

“Everything just makes more sense for us to fight on the same card,” he noted of the rather unique situation COVID-19 has left them in. “We train all day every day together and beside each other. And when I have a fight camp, it’s not like she’s just resting and watching me the whole time. She’s training alongside me. So it’s nothing really new. But now it’s like, I can see it above the nerves and all that stuff.”

Nerves are always there, Gibson added, because as a competitor, he wants to win. “But the nerves at the end of the day are so small, because you go in there and do what you’re capable of, do what you’ve always done, and you just do it together. It’s as simple as that.”

Preparing for a fight in the pandemic has been another challenge. And one that sometimes brings about the wrong kind of attention. “Our gym is right in the middle of the city, and we have our windows wide open, so people look at us like we’re weird. But we have a specific bubble of who our training partners are,” he explained.

Obviously, those include his father and Budd, as well as two or three others. “We keep our group small, we just handle business that way. Sometimes people report us, but at the end of the day, we’re professional fighters, so the rules are, for professional fighters and people that are high-level athletes, they have to continue their training because it’s our livelihood.”

Gibson and his training partners have gone as far as training with masks on. “It’s brutal and it looks weird and you’re sweating and all that stuff, but for some reason it makes everybody outside feel better.”

Bellator 257 was not supposed to be Lance Gibson Jr.’s first fight during the pandemic. He was booked twice against Shane Krutchen last year. In August, Krutchen was not licensed by the Mohegan commission in Connecticut. In November, a teammate tested positive for COVID-19, again scrapping the appearance.

While Gibson likes to stay positive, it was hard to go without a fight for over a year. “It sucked, I’m not going to lie,” he said of the situation. After travelling all the way to Connecticut, Gibson and his family was faced with a two-week quarantine upon return, and shutting down their gym — not an easy thing to do, especially in a pandemic when things are already tight.

“I’m glad he’s healthy now and everything’s working out for him,” Gibson said of his would-be opponent.

In the meantime, there’s a new foe to focus on. Marcus Surin, who has more than twice the experience in terms of fights as Gibson himself.

“I expect him to try to push the pressure,” Gibson predicted. “He wants to come forward, he wants to wrestle, he wants to grapple, he wants to be on the inside, in the clinch. These are all things that I’m extremely good at, and I’ve always been really good at.”

When it comes to the experience differential, “I believe on paper, the experience shows, but I don’t believe my experience truly shows through what I show on my record,” he added. “I believe that’s kind of in my back pocket for people, and I think they kind of get shocked when they see how composed and how well-versed I am in the sport. I don’t think anybody’s seen how truly I’m a strategist, and how I can adapt to any situation. I can’t wait.'”

As for any ring rust, Gibson quoted Dominick Cruz in saying that ring rust is a mentality. “If you train with an active mind at all times, you can go out and have the most spectacular performance.”

Bellator 257 takes place this Friday, April 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The preliminary card airs live online (including right here on Cageside Press), followed by the main card on Showtime in the U.S.