Immediately following Gegard Mousasi’s win over John Salter at Bellator 264, the middleweight champion was handed his next assignment: Austin Vanderford.
Vanderford (11-0) was on hand at the event, working the desk as an analyst before being brought into the cage for a face-off. The #2 ranked fighter in the weight class, behind only Salter, it’s a fight that makes sense, and Vanderford is clearly pumped for it.
“When I signed, did we think ‘Mr. VanZant’ would be up here fighting for the title five fights into his Bellator career?” the middleweight questioned after the event, referencing his status as superstar Paige VanZant’s husband. “I don’t think a lot of people did. I got doubted a lot. But I’m here, I’m 11-0, and I’m excited to go out and test myself.”
In his own post-fight press conference appearance, middleweight champ Mousasi expressed doubts about Vanderford being able to do damage to him on the ground.
“I’m going to do damage on top, although Mousasi doesn’t necessarily think so. I think I’ve proven that in my fights in the past,” retorted Vanderford, speaking to media outlets in person and online, including Cageside Press. “I’m going to go out there, I’m going to make it vicious, and I’m not going to fade in five rounds.”
Vanderford was sporting a brace backstage at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, but it doesn’t appear that will impact the timeline of the fight much. “I’m like four weeks out. I had a little infection in there, and the doctor’s felt it was best to go in there and get it cleaned out, make sure that we didn’t do any serious damage or whatnot.”
“Unfortunately I’m a few weeks in the brace, but he just finished up with a fight too, so it’s all good.”
Bellator President Scott Coker later expressed hope that the fight would take place by the end of the year, or if not, early 2022 at the latest.
Watch the full Bellator 264 press conference appearance from Austin Vanderford above.