Tomorrow night Bellator MMA presents their first annual Dynamite show, which along with GLORY kickboxing, will serve to be the brand's WrestleMania moving forward. I spoke to Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary this week about his huge main event title defense against UFC Hall of Famer and former TNA talent Tito Ortiz.
It seems like Tito has this storybook ending that he wants fulfilled next Saturday night at this big Bellator show.
"He has his nice life wherever he's at, Huntington Beach. Talking about his prophecy, I live in a one bedroom house in Brooklyn. I'm just at the beginning. He's had his time, and now it's my turn. I'm not going to let someone like him stop me. I'm nobody's comeback story. I'm creating my own destiny.
You've been in Bellator for most of your career? Was it intimidating being there after only three fights?
"Not really. Bellator has this way of making everything so calm and relaxed. Everyone was cool, I never felt any pressure. It was pretty easy to be honest with you, even though I was only three fights in."
How do you feel about the new direction Bellator has gone in? They're far more theatrical, they put on grand entrances and fights that other organizations may not make.
"Oh I love it, mate. I absolutely love it. It's a good direction. It's a lot of fun for a guy like me."
What do you make of the relationship with GLORY?
"I think it's going to be an awesome partnership and an awesome part of the show. I sort of like it and I'm as excited to watch it as you guys are, much less headline it."
Is a one-off kickboxing fight with GLORY something you'd be interested in?
"I don't know. I've spoken to my manager, I've spoken to my coach. We've discussed a few things, but I don't know yet. Whatever happens happens. I haven't given much thought about it."
There's a big four-man tournament with former UFC fighter Phil Davis, former Bellator champion Emanuel Newton, former Strikeforce champion and TNA talent King Mo, as well as up-and-comer Linton Vassell. Who's your pick there?
"Yes. I will be facing Linton Vassell when he becomes victorious in that tournament. I have faith in him, just as he faith in me. I know it's a bold thing to say."
A lot of people don't realize you train in New York instead of England. How long have you been in the area?
"New York? I've been here for about two years. I started off in New Jersey and moved to New York because catching that bus everywhere was a pain in the ass. I was just ready to move for my career."
You'd said before that you were expecting the pro wrestling antics that were in the Tito Ortiz/Stephan Bonnar feud. Are you surprised more of that didn't happen?
"No. Whatever you want to turn to make it a sh-t talking thing, it's whatever. I've always heard he's talking sh-t, but I haven't actually heard anything. I've heard other people say that he's talking sh-t, but at the end of the day I've gotta be focused on what I have to do. This is what I'm doing, I'm going to the gym and putting myself through torture for the last three months. I'm going to show him on September 18."
Do you think the trash talk is a necessary evil in today's MMA?
"I believe it it. It's just something you have to do and deal with. I never really thought about it before. I just went in to my fights the way I am. I never had to do all these pre-fight interviews and all that. I think one of the first ones I had to do was before I fought Emanuel Newton. I think maybe I did before the tournament final. If I let something someone says get to me, I'll want to punch them in the face whenever I see them, but I know that I'm fighting Tito on this date, so I can save it all up for when I get to hit him."
Your last was your first fight you didn't finish. How was that transition, going 5 full rounds?
"It was almost more of a satisfaction. Now all of the people who were saying 'He can't fight more than two rounds, what if he gets put into the deep waters? Can he swim?' Well, I showed all you guys, didn't I? I showed that I could fight five rounds, and fight five active rounds. It was a sign to all those people who said I couldn't do it. But I don't want to do it again (laughs)."
Were you ever contacted to be a part of the TNA-Bellator relationship?
"Oh no, I wasn't. I like actually punching someone in the face, not faking and stomping on the ground and screaming 'ugh ugh!'"
Do you think that relationship was good or bad for Bellator?
"I don't really know. I don't really think about it. It was just another thing for some of the guys to do. Not me, though. Not my thing."
Have you had a look at the venue or anything? It's going to be a bit of a different environment, even though you're in a cage.
"I'm still fighting in a cage, and there's going to be a lot of people around chanting and cheering and booing and doing whatever they want to do. It's still the same environment to me, whether it's a cage or there's a ring next door. It's me and guy in the cage.
Where do you see Bellator in 5 years? How about yourself?
"I see them at the very top. As for me, still at the top. King of the castle, mate."
You signed a new contract recently, right? What can you tell us about that?
"I signed in March, but I don't think I'm allowed to go into much of that (laughs)."
Do you see yourself with Bellator from here on out?
"For the foreseeable future, yeah. I've got no plans to go anywhere else. I like it here."
A lot of guys into their 30s don't stay active and fight several times a year, but that's something you had to do during the light heavyweight tournament.
"Well, yeah it was important because I wanted to get the belt. I had to do what I had to do, and that was the tournament. I had to be very busy, and I had a few fights prior to that as well. It was like five fights I had in a year, and that's a lot."
What was that tournament process like?
"It was tiring, mate. It didn't affect me too much, I won it. I had to battle though, but then I got to lay on a beach a few weeks later. I didn't really mind it, it was fine. I didn't have the belt, but I knew what I was going for, so I didn't mind one bit."
What on this show are you looking forward to most, outside of your fight?
"The whole card has fireworks written all over it. I'm excited to watch the kickboxing and the tournament. I'll be happy to stand there in front of the screen and watch it."
Is there anyone in particular you've brought in to train for this fight?
"No, I've just worked with my team. One of our guys looks just like Tito, so I've had him (laughs)."
What would a win over a legend like Tito Ortiz mean to you?
"Well, it'd make me happy obviously. I'm getting to move forward. I've been able to fight some of the top names today, and now I'm able to fight one of the top names of all-time. So yeah, just doing exactly what I set off to do three years ago. I'm a little bit star struck, but I'm going to win."
Where can the fans follow you on social media?
Any final words you have for the fans?
"Fans, look forward to a great fights. I want to thank Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Gamma Labs, Future Legends, and Azad Watches."
You can check out Bellator's huge Dynamite show tomorrow night, which features Liam, in addition to UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz, Former Strikeforce Champion and TNA wrestler King Mo, former Bellator champion Emanuel Newton, and UFC veterans Phil Davis, Paul Daley and Josh Thomson. The show also will showcase GLORY Kickboxing.