Heavyweight Linton Vassell returns to action at Bellator 271, holding down the co-main event slot against top-flight wrestler Tyrell Fortune.
It’s a fight that, under other circumstances, might be a title eliminator. There’s a chance it still could be. Especially with Vassell coming off a couple of wins, one over UFC alum Ronny Markes, the other opposite Russian vet Sergei Kharitonov.
After his last two fights, “this was the next fight to make,” Vassell (20-8, 1NC) told Cageside Press during this week’s Bellator 271 media day. “I feel like after those two wins, I was destined for a number one contender fight, and Tyrell fits that. He’s obviously in the top five, same as me, so this fight needs to happen. I want to be champ, so why not now?”
The only problem is the murky title picture. Ryan Bader is the champ, but was recently knocked out of the light heavyweight grand prix — quite literally by Corey Anderson. Valentin Moldavsky holds interim gold, and his mentor, Fedor Emelianenko, could also be in the mix, having recently knocked out Tim Johnson.
“So I thought it was going to be Moldavsky vs. Bader next to unify it I guess. I can’t pick a winner out of them two,” Vassell said of the title situation. “I fought both of them, I fought Bader so long ago though, at light heavyweight. So I haven’t fought him at heavyweight. Let the best man win. I’ve got unfinished business with both of them. I don’t mind who wins, I’d like to fight either one of them to get that title fight. Again, let the best man win for that.”
As for Fedor? “Obviously I understand the name, that’s probably why he’s sneaking in. It is what it is, I’d love to fight Fedor at one point as well, as he’s a legend. So maybe us two can get it on at some point.” For now, however, Vassell is focused on the task at hand, and that’s Fortune.
The Linton Vassell of today seems to be in a much better place than he was a few years ago, when he admittedly contemplated retirement following a three-fight skid. A big part of that is the move to heavyweight, “something that I should have done a long time ago, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way,” Vassell told us. “I definitely feel this is the best decision I’ve made.”
Among the benefits, “no cutting weight, eat what I like in moderation, and I feel like less injuries as well. And you’re not as moody during fight week, you haven’t got to cut weight and do all that sauna work.”
Watch the full Bellator 271 media day scrum with Linton Vassell above. More coverage of the event can be found below.