Eyebrows were raised across the combat sports world when ex-Cage Warriors champion Ross Houston was thrown into the main event slot at Bellator 248 with one of the sport’s biggest stars; Michael ‘Venom’ Page, for his promotional debut. Perhaps the most surprised? Houston himself.
The Scottish fighter, who clinched gold in his former promotion on a stunning eight fight run, likely wasn’t imagining the British standout when he was unveiled to the media at Dublin’s 3 Arena with a crowded scrum interview unimaginable in the modern world during Bellator 240. After all, many of the US MMA giants’ newest European signings have been allowed to settle into their new surroundings with lesser matchups before diving into the big main event slots.
“I didn’t expect it to happen to be honest,” Houston tells MMA Island during a virtual media day to promote Bellator’s historic French debut this Saturday. “From Michael’s point of view, I didn’t feel there was a lot in it for himI thought, ‘he’s got quite a big name, what does a win against me offer him?’
“But you know what? I’m a world champion. I’m undefeated, so here’s his chance to show whether or not he can do it against someone who’s legit. He’s going to fail at that test Saturday night. You’ve got to play the hands you’re dealt with and I’m looking forward to it, I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity.
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“I feel like I’ve got the strongest mind in MMA, full stop. None of his antics before the fight or in the cage are going to affect me. Obviously he’s got a very high level style, but it’s nothing my solid fundamentals won’t beat.”
The enigmatic MVP: 17-1 with 3 straight highlight reel knockouts since his sole loss to now-champion Douglas Lima, is as confident as his record suggests he should be. The man has a lovable arrogance reminiscent of some of the sporting world’s great athletes.
During yet another engaging media day appearance for the Bellator 248 main event, he brags that he hasn’t watched any video footage of his World Champion opponent, declares his intention to challenge Lima once more and even has time to take shots at a former rival as he insists that SBG Ireland’s Richard Kiely is, in fact, one the ‘cans’ on his record.
“I don’t believe I would be matched up with Ross Houston if the world weren’t in the situation we are at the moment [various levels of lockdown worldwide],” he admits. “I’m unable to get to the States, a lot of American fighters aren’t able to come over here, so we had to find credible opponents and he’s definitely a credible opponent.
“He’s achieved something I haven’t, which is a world title in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. He’s also undefeated and I’ve got to change that which is always hard when somebody is just used to winning all the time. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
But not everyone is convinced. Fellow welterweight Oliver Enkamp will compete in the co-main event of the Bellator 248 portion of the card, and he believes that Houston has bitten off more than he can chew with the abrasive London Shootfighter.
“It didn’t annoy me,” he responds when asked if he were irritated to see the Scotsman leapfrog him in the division and take the Bellator 248 main event spot. “But it did surprise me.
“I know that he’s a very hyped name, but to be honest I think he’s going to get a bit more than what he asked. I haven’t seen any of his fights so I’m not counting him out, but I know MVP is really high level and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, he can put up against him.”
Bellator 248 takes place on CBS Sports and DAZN in the US, BBC iPlayer in the UK and Bellator MMA’s YouTube channel in Ireland. The event kicks off at 8.30 AM Pacific, 11.30 AM Eastern and 4.30 PM GMT. MVP faces Ross Houston in the Bellator 248 Main Event
The Bellator Paris prelims then air on the Bellator MMA YouTube channel in the US & Ireland and the BBC iPlayer in the UK. They kick off at 10.45 AM Pacific, 1.45 PM Eastern and 6.45 PM GMT.
Bellator Paris then airs on the Bellator MMA YouTube channel & DAZN in the US, Channel 5 in the UK and Virgin Media Sport in Ireland. The event kicks off at 2 PM Pacific, 5 PM Eastern and 10 PM GMT.