A handful of fans know Austin Vanderford as an undefeated middleweight fighter taking on the legendary Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 275 this Friday. But for the rest of the MMA community, he will always be “Mr. Paige VanZant.”
Such a distinction may not sit too well for some people. Vanderford, however, isn’t listening to the noise around him.
“What is more alpha than going out there and getting in a fistfight for a living?” Vanderford told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “There’s not really anything anyone could say. Of course, there’s going to be those fans and there might be colleagues who talk a little shit, but it’s just part of the game. I’m happy to embrace it. I am my wife’s biggest fan and supporter.
“I really don’t care about the title of being Mr. VanZant. I think it’s funny. If anyone really cares that much about it, they can fight me about it.”
VanZant rose to fame during her six-year stint in the UFC but gained more popularity as a social media figure. Vanderford may not have made it to the big show, but he’s nonetheless grateful to be able to pursue his chosen career path.
“Of course, I have my wife and she’s the breadwinner, but if I didn’t have Paige, I would still be able to fight and I wouldn’t have to worry about a thing,” Vanderford said with a laugh. “Bellator makes that possible.
“I couldn’t confidently say that at this point in my career that I’d have that same deal with the UFC. I actually really don’t think I would. I’m a happy Bellator fighter.”
As for his headlining title fight with Mousasi, Vanderford is out to prove something.
“I have respect for what he’s accomplished and all that in the sport, but I smile when I talk about it because I know what I can do,” Vanderford said of Mousasi. “I know what I’m capable of. I know I train with guys that are better than him. I know I’m going to outwork him in this camp, and when it comes fight night, I know I’m going to go out and show that.
“It’s fun and I’m happy to be the underdog because I want that feeling. I want everyone to be like, ‘Paige VanZant’s husband really is f–ng badass.’ It pumps me up even talking about it. It makes me want to cry. I just get so emotional and so excited for it.”
Bellator 275 will take place in Dublin, Ireland.
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