Austin Vanderford is happy that his opportunity for a title is coming against someone the caliber of Gegard Mousasi.

Vanderford (11-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) challenges Bellator middleweight champion Mousasi (48-7-2 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) in the main event of Bellator Dublin, which takes place Feb. 25 at 3Arena in Ireland.

Unbeaten in his pro MMA career, Vanderford will undoubtedly be facing his sternest test to date in the far more experienced Mousasi. But the 31-year-old American Top Team fighter thinks beating a guy like Mousasi will only help prove his legitimacy as a fighter.

“Going out and beating a guy like him, that erases any questions about whether the guy belongs,” Vanderford told MMA Junkie Radio. “Just like A.J. McKee, if anyone had any questions, all that was answered after the ‘Pitbull’ (Freire) fight, and I want the same thing. I’ve said it in almost every single interview, I’m here to compete with the best and fight the best, and in my opinion, you can look at any promotion and you’d have to put Gegard in the top five in the world for middleweights, so I truly believe that, and I think this is just a great opportunity for me.”

Since recapturing the middleweight title in October 2020, Mousasi notched his first title defense when he stopped John Salter in the third round at Bellator 264. Though Vanderford possesses a similar style to Salter, he sees himself as a more refined version.

“He fought a grappler his last fight, and that’s what I am, but I think I’m a little more tenacious and a little more – my athleticism and what not and just couple that with my gas tank and just being able to put on a high pace the whole fight,” Vanderford said. “So I think a lot of that is going to be different, but it’s hard to really tell a guy who’s had over 50 pro MMA fights that he hasn’t seen this guy yet.

“But he also does have some losses, and of course I’ve studied and watched some of these fights, and I feel confident with the gameplan that we have going into it, and I’m young and hungry, and this is just the moment for me. I just feel like everything is right. I feel like everything’s been put into place and just made right for this moment right here.”


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