The 28-year-old is set to face off against Cody Jones (6-2) on the main card of Bellator 215. Despite the short notice on getting this matchup, Vanderford is more than ready to showcase his skills in the Bellator cage in a 175-pound catchweight bout.
“That’s the benefit of staying ready.” Vanderford told MMANews. “We originally were thinking [my debut] was going to be in March so I was kind of gearing towards that but I’m always training. The opportunity presented itself and I think it was a week from this last Friday we got the word. The contract was signed that Sunday or Monday. [This] opportunity to be on the main card for my debut was unreal. It all pays off. I thought [to myself] just make it a little bit easier [fighting at a catchweight]. They gave us the option which was awesome. I just don’t have to kill myself and it was a good deal for sure.”
Vanderford (6-0) is coming off a first-round TKO win over Edmilson Freitas at Final Fight Championship 32 in October, which pushed his undefeated streak to six-straight. However the Gracie Barra Portland product is perhaps best known for his his come from behind victory on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last July where he submitted Angelo Trevino in the second round. Despite that impressive performance, the UFC opted not to sign him. That’s where Bellator made the best offer and he seized the opportunity.
“We had some talks [with the UFC] and what not, but we just thought Bellator was best offer. I couldn’t be happier, the way that everything worked out. Even getting this short notice fight and all this is pretty good. [Paige] is just happy and just wants to see the best for me in my career. Just all the intangibles choosing one organization or the other. She’s super supportive and happy for me. We both have our careers and people have their opinions on my career and how much of an impact she has. We’re both just happy at where we’re at. All I wanted to be on a platform to showcase what I can do. With Bellator I feel like I have a great opportunity to do that.”
His wife recently picked up a submission win last month at UFC Brooklyn, which for Vandford has given him an added boost heading into his promotional debut.
“It feels great [seeing her win]. Honestly we talked about it after her win. I didn’t think there was any better feeling than winning a fight, I didn’t think you could get much higher than that. Until I was with her and she won. Seeing her win is almost better than winning myself. It’s a really big confidence booster and it feels good. I know how touched she is and how hard she works. So to see success it makes you feel good and you’re doing the right things.”
His opponent Jones, will also be making his debut for Bellator and carries a four-fight win streak. The 26-year-old has finished his last four opponents, including a first-round TKO win over Eric Belcher at Ultimate Battle Grounds 2 in August. The South Carolina native went 10-1 as an amateur before making his professional debut in Oct. 2015. Vanderford admits he didn’t know much about his opponent but is treating the matchup as if he’s fighting the current welterweight champion.
“I don’t know a ton [about him] we’ve seen a little bit. He’s a little bit longer, a rangy guy. Right now it’s just a fight, we’re both fairly young in our careers so there isn’t a lot to go off of. I feel like I matchup great but I feel that way against any opponent. I’ve finished my last three opponents. Going out for a finish man, that’s what I like to do and that’s what I want to do. It’s going to be a really tough fight. I take everyone I fight as serious as anyone I’m going to fight. This guy I’m taking as serious as if I’m fighting Rory MacDonald. I just always have that mindset. Hopefully make an exciting fight.”
Bellator 215 takes place Feb. 15 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The main event features former UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione facing Sergei Kharitonov.