Vassell has committed to a new deal with Bellator (Picture: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)
Linton Vassell has signed a new six-fight deal with Bellator and is now just waiting for contracts to be signed for his heavyweight title fight against Ryan Bader.
Having rattled off four consecutive wins since November 2019, Vassell has moved himself onto the brink of a third world title shot, having come up short in two previous attempts at light-heavyweight.
A thrilling first round fightback saw him secure a TKO win over Tim Johnson in April and catapult him into the title picture once again, confident he has done everything asked of him to get his opportunity.
The Briton turns 39 this week but a huge new deal with Bellator will hand him the chance to become the new king of the heavyweight division and be crowned only the second Bellator champion from the UK.
‘I feel like this is a long time coming and I’m happy that we could work out a new agreement we are both happy with,’ Vassell told Metro.co.uk.
Bader welcomed Vassell as his next challenger last month (Picture: Getty)
‘In my head I was next for the title fight and with Bader winning and then calling me out it just made perfect sense. Because I had done everything in my path to get to that number one spot, so pretty much I was next in line.’
It was Bader who spurned one of Vassell’s earlier attempts to become champion at 205lbs back in 2017. The American then called out his old rival following his title defence against Cheick Kongo in May, a win that came just four months on from becoming the division’s undisputed champion with a gruelling victory over Valentin Moldavsky.
Vassell is next in line and has not ruled out the possibility of his world title challenge taking place back in the UK.
‘I was very excited when I heard my name being called by Ryan, so I know he is up for it and I’m up for it,’ he said. ‘So now we’re just waiting for the contract and a date so we can make it happen.’
Vassell got the TKO win over Tim Johnson in April (Picture: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)
Vassell continued: ‘It’s been too long since I fought back home. I would love for either a title fight or a title defence here. I’ve thought about this moment many times, it would be a dream come true and definitely something I’ve been talking about for a long time.
‘Bellator need to get the ball rolling and start announcing more London shows, so I can be a part of their spectacular overseas cards again. My people are missing The Big Swarm.’
Vassell was on a two-fight skid before his decision to move up to heavyweight in March 2019, suffering defeat in his first fight back at that weight against Valentin Moldavsky.
The 38-year-old set to earn his shot at heavyweight gold (Picture: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)
Three stoppage wins and split decision win over Tyrell Fortune since then ensure the Milton Keynes fighter carries considerable momentum into this next stage in his career. In addition to shaking up training regiments, he credits his relentless form to the work with his mind coach, Mindset Mike.
And while he doesn’t recognise major changes in the version of Bader that stopped him in the second round of their first battle five years ago, he insists he is a ‘new breed’ of fighter ahead of the rematch.
‘There’s a number of things that got me back to my winning way. I changed up my training; adding in more cardio, had my rest days when needed, worked on game plans and bad situations.
‘But the biggest thing is my mind coach, Mindset Mike. We have been working together for a number of years now and I just feel my mind, body and soul are levelling up and I’m coming into my own.
‘I feel that Bader personally hasn’t changed from 2017, but his wrestling is on a different level and he has continued to still be able to dominate in his fights. He does it well and people can’t stop him.
‘I’ve changed small but big things, from the way I train and Mindset Mike is a huge part of that. Heavyweight Swarm is a new breed of fighter this time round.’
All European Bellator shows in 2022 will be live on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer. US Bellator shows will be live on BBC iPlayer and fans can catch up on the US action with the BBC Three Bellator highlights show.
For more stories like this, check our sport page.