Bellator 294: Tyrell Fortune Sees Weaknesses in Sergey Bilostenniy’s Game

Bellator’s fifth-ranked heavyweight contender Tyrell Fortune (12-3) takes on promotional newcomer Sergey Bilostenniy (10-2) at Bellator 284 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The explosive Fortune enters the fight on the back of a loss to Daniel James by TKO at Bellator 288, and now looks to right the ship against the Russian in this fight.

Despite a hectic schedule which has seen Tyrell fight twelve times in the last four years, he told Cageside Press he wants to stay at least that active, especially now that he is back to where he feels he should be mentally.

“I still want to fight three or four times, I’m not trying to take the foot off the pedal at all. I think for me personally, I need to fight three times a year, I need to, I need that… I need to compete, like I’m a competitor, I can’t just train for so long and not be able to test what I’ve been training,” Fortune explained in a recent exclusive interview. “This sport is too brutal, with the training, for me not to be like, ‘Let me let go on somebody. Let me see where I’m at.’”

“Whether I win or lose I still need to see where I’m at because the grind of this sport doesn’t come from the fights, it comes from the training camps, that’s why I feel like with all the training I have to do I have to fight at least three times a year, I’d fight f*cking four or five if I could, if they’d let me.”

In fact, Fortune is such a competitor that if he was able to do so, he would like to fight even more, “If all I was doing is fighting, I could let it heal, then you know, let me fight every 2-3 months, I’ll train my ass off and just fight and heal, fight and heal.”

Fortune’s opponent, Sergey Bilostenniy, has not fought in the West before, mainly fighting out of Eastern Europe thus far in his career. Despite not being able to find footage for every fight of his, Tyrell feels that his team has enough to work from.

“We got three of his fights so to me I think that’s plenty, because you’re just watching, looking for habits, looking for mistakes and openings, see where you see some flaws and weaknesses. To me I think that’s plenty, and if you don’t have any [tape to watch] at all then it’s a fight so f*ck it you better be paying attention and figuring it out on the fly,” noted Fortune. “I always think he could be a completely different guy that I see in that cage when the fight starts so I have to be ready for that, can’t go in with just one solid gameplan like this is how it’s going to be because that sh*t can be thrown out right when the fight starts. I think that’s just how I look at it.”

That tape has given him confidence in what he can do against Bilostenniy. Tyrell seems to believe he can beat his foe in just about every phase of mixed martial arts.

“Yeah I’m going to try to expose him right away, it depends on what happens. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m going to look to expose his weaknesses as soon as possible… Wrestling he gets tired, I think I’m faster than he is on the feet anyways, so there’s not much really I’m worried too much about. I just have to be smart, every fighter is obviously dangerous and presents a different challenge but I think with the skills I bring to the table if I’m smart and handle everything correctly it should be an easy fight.”

When asked if he thought this was too big of a step up for Sergey to take at this point, he laughed out loud, “Sh*t I don’t care. I don’t give two sh*ts if you’re ready or not, they presented the fight and I don’t turn down fights, I’ve been saying that from the start. I just fight whoever they ask me to fight… My job is to beat up the guy they put in front of me.”

Part of where Tyrell Fortune gets that competitor mindset from is his wrestling career, which saw him compete for the US world team. His wrestling and his smaller frame for the heavyweight division lead him to him emulating the legendary double champion Daniel Cormier more than anyone else. In fact, Fortune never had aspirations to do MMA until Bellator came knocking.

“I never had any aspirations to fight at all. I didn’t know I was going to be fighting, didn’t know I was going to be here in this position,” he recalled.  “I was wrestling and when I made the world team— that was my goal. When Bellator presented me with this opportunity it kind of seemed surreal at first. I just kind of took it because I feel that it was the next best thing. I never had nobody I really looked up to. But now, being a fighter and growing as a fighter, the fighter I would say I take from the most, from his style, is DC, because his style is very particular to mine and our backgrounds are very particular. Because I’m a shorter heavyweight, a small type of heavyweight, I think the way he goes at the game is the way I try to look at it a little bit.”

However, Bellator’s fifth-ranked heavyweight takes pieces from everyone, and he sees himself as a true student of the game. Fortune never misses a UFC or Bellator card and often catches PFL and ONE Championship cards as well. When asked about the fighters he enjoys watching the most, he gave an answer that truly shows just how much he loves studying the sport of mixed martial arts.

“Justin Gaethje is one of them, Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns, Vicente Luque is f*cking so clean, that sh*t is nice. I was watching one of his fights last night, he is nice. Chandler is a good one to watch as well. Adesanya, his movement, his particular skillset is very different than a lot of people so I think he is more of an entertainment factor, like the, ‘Wow, fighters can do this type of sh*t.’ He does a lot of intricate basic sh*t that I don’t think a lot of people pick up, his feints and his hand movements and his head movements. A lot of traps that he sets, that he’s doing a lot of basic sh*t that I think I pick up from boxing.”

“My coaches have me watching a lot of boxers. Guys like Mike Tyson, Floyd, Roy Jones Jr., we watch a lot of Roy. Max Holloway, that dude is real nice, Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen. Cory Sandhagen that **** is nice, he’s doing so much on a little level, a little scale that I think a lot of fighters don’t pick up. His feints, his foot movement, his placement, everything is thought out. Guys like that, that I watch I’m just like motherf*cker. Those are guys I think that are firing at the highest in this game, guys like Cory Sandhagen, when you’re able to perform. You can tell he meticulously planned out every aspect of his game. Switching stance, everything doesn’t change, it’s a mirror image, guys like that is who I try to watch and learn a little bit of stuff from. I feel like my skillset is very different from theirs so I have everything to learn from them when it comes to the feet and the hands and kicks and sh*t like that.”

Of course, all fighters in the sport are ultimately after a championship, and the next Bellator heavyweight title bout seems likely to feature Linton Vassell and Ryan Bader, both of whom Fortune has history with, having trained with each and lost a split decision to Vassell in 2021,

“I don’t know. I trained with Bader before and I’ve trained with Linton before too, so I know them both very well. They’re both very tough fighters. Linton is a hard guy to deal with, he’s gotten a lot better with his wrestling, but they fought before and Bader was able to take him down and control him with the wrestling. I don’t know if Linton can stop Bader from wrestling him. Obviously when you wrestle a guy like that and you have a lot of success with it you’ll go back to it again. But Linton is strong as **** so if you get in the wrong wrestling position with him it could be an easy reversal. So I don’t know, at this time with these guys’ careers and what Linton’s been doing and how Bader fights as well, that’s a coin flip, I can’t really give you my call on the fight.”

A win against Sergey Bilostenniy would put Tyrell Fortune back on track in the heavyweight division, and with potential storylines for a fight with either Bader or Vassell he would not be that far his first title shot of his own after fighting in Bellator for his entire MMA career.

Bellator 294 takes place Friday, April 20th, 2023 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.