Following a couple of years on the regional circuit, middleweight up and comer Austin Vanderford got his opportunity to step up to the national stage when he made his Bellator debut this past February.

Facing Cody Jones at Bellator 251, Vanderford was able to have one of the strongest performances of his two year career with a first round submission victory in the fight.

“It was an amazing experience,” Vanderford told “It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life; making my Bellator debut and fighting their organization. The cherry on top was getting the first round finish.

“I had always dreamed about fighting for a major promotion and it’s just kind of the waiting game and picking up fights on the local circuit and whatnot; when the opportunity arose we jumped on it right away. I’m really fortunate and happy to be in this position.”

Since the win over Jones, Vanderford has continued to work on his game as a whole rather than focus on individual areas.

“It’s more the little things (I focus on working on),” said Vanderford. “I try to be as well-rounded as I can be, so I really haven’t worked on anything specific, but more try to make my game as well-rounded and bring along my skillset all the same.”

On Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn., Vanderford (7-0) will look to remain undefeated when he takes on Doug Usher (10-3) in a preliminary 185-pound bout at Bellator 225.

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“He’s a very talented fighter in his own right,” Vanderford said of Usher. “He’s 10-3 and has got six wins a row. I think it’s a great match-up for me.

“He comes out with really heavy hands. I think I also have knockout power. I also possess the skill of take people down and wrestle people. I’m excited for the fight, and if I stick with my game plan and what I’m best with I’ll be successful.”

While Vanderford would like to close out 2019 with an additional bout, he does acknowledge that such a fight could be conditional barring personal business involving his wife, veteran Paige VanZant.

“If I’m going to be completely honest, I’d like to fight one more time before the end of the year,” said Vanderford. “I’ll have this fight and take whatever time I need. I’m always training. I don’t really take that many breaks.

“My wife and I got married about a year ago and I haven’t taken her on our honeymoon yet, so that’s kind of my only obligation, but other than that it’s training and getting ready for the next one.”


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