Bellator 149: "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3" brings an explosive mixed martial arts (MMA) card to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, this Friday night (Feb. 19, 2016). In the main event of the evening, MMA legends Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie will collide in a trilogy match, while Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 will slug it out in Spike TV's Heavyweight co-main event.
Linton Vassell and Emanuel Newton is another intriguing fight set for the main card, a rematch between from Bellator 130 that saw "Hardcore Kid" prevail in a Light Heavyweight title defense, submitting "The Swarm" in the fifth and final round via rear-naked choke.
That's a result Vassell (15-5, 1 NC) would surely like to avenge, but Newton (25-9-1) is no easy win for any opponent -- he has only been knocked out once and submitted three times in 35 professional fights.
Vassell recently spoke with MMAmania.com about his big rematch with Newton this weekend, revealing that his fans have been clamoring for this one to happen.
"After we fought at the first fight they were like, 'Aww when are you gonna have your rematch?' That's the only fight they've been asking me for. 'When are you gonna fight Emanuel? When are you gonna fight Emanuel? Rematch! Rematch!' They wanted it the most and it looks like they're actually getting it."
It's understandable that fans are excited given Vassell took Newton into the championship rounds and claimed his title in the process. Vassell gave me his own scorecards for the fight.
"I'll say I was three rounds ahead. Going into the fourth round I'll say he can have that round, and then in the fifth is where he obviously beat me. So if that went to points, I'd be the champion now."
If the rematch played out the same way as their first match, Vassell believes he'd take home the win at Toyota Center.
"Oh definitely! Yeah definitely! It's not five rounds it's three rounds. If it's there like the last fight we had, them three rounds are mine, so y'know I see it going exactly the same way to be honest."
Vassell may also be fresher in the rematch given he won't have to fly in from the United Kingdom on fight week.
"It's not a factor now because I'm currently in Florida (with the Blackzilians). I've been here now for seven weeks, so I only have to get a flight from Florida to Houston, which is just a couple of hours. It don't take it out of me now cause I'm not doing those 14- to 15-hour flights like I was before, and I done that in my last fight I had. This time I'm going to be more than ready and be fresh and right ready to go."
In fact, to hear Vassell tell it, the training he's getting now with the Blackzilians makes him more dangerous than he has ever been in his Bellator career.
"I've been here now (with the Blackzilians) for just over a year. It's a great team and I've really found my home here. They have people coming in day-in, day-out so I'm getting some great sparring in."
The main event of "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3" has a special appeal for Vassell because he shares some personal history with Royce Gracie.
"I've grown up watching both of those guys, y'know in UFC 1 through 3 and so on. I actually met (Royce) Gracie when I first started out. I met him, we rolled, and he actually gave me my first blue belt after we rolled. It's going to be amazing to fight on the same night as their fight."
Finally, I wanted to know if Vassell thinks the American fans have taken to him after being part of the promotion dating back to his fight with Matt Jones at Bellator 107 and how it compares to the fans back home.
"I've got a great reception, y'know the fan response has been great. I have a lot of fun for them so I'm feeling the love. My fans back at home (are) always on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, messaging me after the fight (ends). They're very very loyal fans that way."
If they stay up late this Friday night, they're sure to see another classic bout between "The Swarm" and "Hardcore Kid."
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.