With Bellator 165 looming large on the MMA horizon, Friday 18 November will see the return of Linton “The Swarm” Vassell at San Jose SAP Centre.
Like a swarm of locusts, top UK Light-Heavyweight Vassell (16-5-1) will enter the Bellator cage this weekend looking to rapidly strip down and cause damage to anything in his path. The obstacle in his way on this occasion, Frenchman Francis Carmont (25-11).
This fight has been months in the making with the pair originally scheduled to meet at the Scott Coker-led promotions’ debut show at the world famous O2 arena in July before an injury to Vassell meant that the fight was put on ice.
“In the lead-up to the I was sparring with one of my teammates and we ended up clashing heads which coursed a gash over my eye. I went to the hospital and the doctor stitched me up and said the eye would be fine but the cut got infected so I had to make the decision to pull-out of the fight because of the injury.”
For UK fans in particular, news of the withdrawal of the fighter – who now calls the sunshine state of Florida his home – came as a massive blow but none were more disappointed then the man himself who’s homecoming had been years in the making.
“I was seriously p-ssed honestly. I didn’t want to pull-out but I had no choice man, I just couldn’t fight with my injury. It’s been so long since I’ve fought in the United Kingdom, I’d trained so hard for the fight and having to pull-out of the fight was gutting for me to have to disappoint my fans back home.”
Vassell’s path to success was not an easy one as early on in his career the 33-year-old had to juggle life as a bricklayer and a professional fighter before a once in a lifetime opportunity to help Anthony “Rumble” Johnson prepare for a fight changed his life for ‘the better’ and he would make the permanent move to the world famous Blackzilians Gym.
“In the beginning I was working as a bricklayer for five sometime seven days a week and then training afterwards which meant really long hours for me before I finally got the call from Bellator which gave me the opportunity to train in America. I knew pretty quickly it was the place for me so I decided to pack my stuff and move out there. It been a long hard road but now I realise all the sacrifices I made earlier on in my career have been worth it.”
The decision to make the move to the states also in part came about as a result of his Bellator 130 defeated to former Light-Heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton but the decision would pay off as the Brit successfully avenged that loss at Bellator 149 and it is clear to the Vassell exactly how he was able to do it.
“Before I join the Blackzilians I had to travel to different gyms up and down the country, places like London and Southend for good sparring because I was the biggest guy in my gym which was Immortal MMA. After my world title loss to Emanuel [Newton] I wanted to go to a gym where there was a lot of light heavyweights and I knew I could get that in America because the training is on different level there and they have a lot of bodies I can work with also and now you are seeing the results of my move stateside.”
In the Swarm’s upcoming bout this weekend he will face the TriStar Gym trained Francis “Limitless” Carmont who in his absence at the promotions debut show in London last July made light work of Vassell’s replacement Lukasz Klinger when he defeated the Polish fighter by 1st round bravo choke.
“Francis is an all-rounder, he has good striking, his got some good jujitsu and good wrestling as well. He ain’t no mug but I’m ready for him in all aspects so he needs to be ready for what I’ve got. For me I’m not too worried about what his gonna do in the fight, I think he should be more worried about what I’m going to do in the fight.
“I think a win over Carmont puts me in title contention and I see this fight as a No.1 contender fight so once I beat him I will be looking to fight for that world title, thats the fight I’m looking forward to next. I’m not looking past my opponent but I’m not going to lie I have Phil Davis firmly in my sights and that is the fight I want next, thats the fight I’m looking at, a fight for the Light-Heavyweight title.”