Bellator 215: “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov” takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Feb. 15, 2019, the first of two back-to-back shows in the same building that will also see Michael “Venom” Page and Paul “Semtex” Daley meet in the Welterweight Grand Prix the following night.
In the interim, a loaded Bellator MMA card for Friday night will also see the undefeated Logan Storley (9-0) return to action against the veteran Ion Pascu (18-9), a 36-year-old SBG Ireland-trained fighter who has won half of his fights (nine of 18) by knockout. Storley, meanwhile, is young in his career and in age (26), but not in experience. Indeed, the “farm boy strong” native of Webster, S.D., has followed in Brock Lesnar’s footsteps — including graduating from the same wrestling program at the University in Minnesota. So far that’s translated into one impressive win after another.
“Storm” Storley recently spoke with MMAmania.com about how he’s feeling since picking up his fourth straight win in Bellator in Aug. 2018.
“Yeah, you know, it was a big fight back home in front of the hometown people. I was excited to get the finish in front of them and I’m excited for this next fight.”
The fight against Pascu at Bellator 215 also offers Storley the chance to improve his resume to a perfect 10-0 in the sport as a professional.
“Yeah, yeah that’s the goal and that’s the purpose — walking into that cage to get another finish and improve that record.”
That won’t be easy since “Bombardierul” would relish getting to knock off an undefeated fighter. Coincidentally, we saw Ricky Bandejas do that to James Gallagher the last time Storley fought. Storley is so focused, though, he’s not thinking about any other Welterweights.
“Yeah, you know it is what it is. When the (grand prix) tournament got announced, I think I was only 3-0 in the Bellator cage. So I understand some of those guys that have been around, guys they signed, that’s who they put in there. There’s not much you can say so I just continue to put my head down and continue to work and continue to get wins.”
Storley wouldn’t rule out an opportunity to be an alternate if one came up.
“I think they already have their alternate slots set up and with the semifinals coming on after April, I think it’ll be tough for someone to jump in there after not having to fight the first round. I don’t know people would take that (but) obviously you’re always prepared for anything that Bellator calls you (for) so we’re ready. If something like that happens, perfect, but we’ll see. Right now the biggest thing I’m concerned about is February 15th.”
There’s no reason to look past “Bombardierul” when he scores knockouts in half of his wins. Whether he’s gotten the “W” in Bellator or not, he’ll still be a hard nut to crack.
“He’s a tough guy and he’s got some big power and some decent wrestling. We’re well prepared and we have a good gameplan and we’re ready for anything that’s thrown at us.”
In addition, Pascu is winless so far in two Bellator fights, starting with the equally undefeated Ed Ruth then losing to Lorenz Larkin in that aforementioned tournament alternate bout.
“You know he fought two tough guys against Ed and Lorenz. He gave those guys problems, but we’ve got a good gameplan and we know what we have to do to get in there and get the ‘W.’”
At least going into the bout Storley has the advantage of plenty of material to scout in Pascu’s 27 pro fights — far more than the nine Storley has had for Pascu to review.
“I think just being a competitor you always want to watch a little bit on your guy — fights that he struggled (in) and places where he had a tough time, and places where he did well and where he’s good at.”
After the success of former collegiate-turned pro (wrestler) Jake Hager and fellow Golden Gopher alum Brock Lesnar, the road to glory is well paved for Storley as a college stud.
“Yeah, you know you’re seeing a lot of guys from all backgrounds have success obviously. But, the guys that stick with it and continue to pick up new skills, wrestlers that pick up new skills and adapt and become a true mixed martial arts but stick to their roots, (they) have had a lot of success. It’s fun to watch these other wrestlers doing well at other weight classes.”
For Storley, though, there aren’t too many new skills to pick up in his own mind given that things are already going so well in his MMA career.
“I don’t know if you really pick up crazy new things — you just refine things, and improve little things, and get better in little situations. For me the biggest thing is just getting better in little situations and finding ways to get the finish each fight. (I want) to get guys tired and break ‘em down and get finishes.”
I was also curious as to whether or not Storley thought his collegiate wrestling days were in some ways harder than being a pro fighter.
“Your schedule with college wrestling, you know you’re wrestling and competing 35 times a year. January, February, when you get into that Big Ten schedule, you’re on a plane, you’re flying to Michigan to wrestle Michigan State on a Friday and Michigan on a Sunday, you’re getting back on the plane flying home — and then you have school Monday! You know, you’ve gotta take care of that and then you’re back to training. Things like that are tough. With fighting you only compete two to four times a year. You don’t get quite as comfortable as you’d like to compared to wrestling. In a tournament sometimes you’re wrestling three to four times in one day. The level of comfort is different, but they’re both tough, but the college wrestling grind is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.”
He has one more tough thing to do on Friday night — knock off Ion Pascu and remain undefeated as he moves up the ranks in Bellator’s Welterweight division.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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