Costello van Steenis on one day fighting mentor Gegard Mousasi: 'That's messed up'

LONDON – Dutch finisher Costello van Steenis may be getting ready to face a Brit at Bellator London this week, but the 26-year-old middleweight prospect says he’ll feel right at home on English soil.

Ahead of his all-European clash with Brit Mike Shipman at the SSE Arena on Saturday, van Steenis (11-1 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) said he’s entering very familiar territory.

“Oh man, fighting in London, in England … it’s like fighting at home,” van Steenis told MMA Junkie. “I started my professional career in Holland – I had two or three fights> Then I think I fought six or seven fights in the U.K. I have family and friends over there, as well. It’s like going to my neighbor’s place.”

Van Steenis arrived in Bellator as one of European MMA’s hottest middleweight prospects, and the Dutchman hasn’t disappointed on the big stage so far. His first three fights under the Bellator banner have produced three victories, with a pair of first-round finishes – one submission and one knockout – getting his career on the global stage off to a flying start.

His most recent outing proved a trickier test when NCAA All-American Chris Honeycutt put him under immense pressure with his wrestling throughout a hard-fought battle that went all the way to the scorecards. Van Steenis eked out a split-decision victory on that occasion and said the fight was exactly what he needed at this stage of his career.

“I learned a lot from that fight,” he said. “I now know I’ve got a three, five-minute round fight in me, and I know I’ve got the stamina. I couldn’t have wished for a better fight with what happened last time, because I think I had one of the division’s best wrestlers against me. He thinks he won the fight, and I think I won. But I hit him more and I did more things to try to finish the fight. I put more fight in that fight than he did.”

Now van Steenis is preparing to face a different style of opponent. Former BAMMA middleweight champion Shipman (13-1 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) has heavy hands and a string of knockouts to his name after building his star on the domestic scene in England and will provide another stern test of the Dutchman’s credentials.

“He’s a strong guy and a good fighter,” van Steenis said. “He starts hard, I start hard, but I think he gasses out quickly, though. I think I’ve got a big advantage in that.

“I believe I’m going to drag him into very deep waters in whatever way the bout goes, whether wrestling, stand-up or on the ground. I do not believe this will be decided on points. There’s definitely going to be a finish.”

If he makes good on that pre-fight prediction, van Steenis could well find himself in the title conversation at 185 pounds. But the rising Dutch star says he has no designs on the Bellator middleweight title. At least, not yet. That’s because his friend, training partner and mentor, Gegard Mousasi, is the current champion.

“I’m not really in a rush on my path to the belt, because Gegard has the belt at middleweight,” he explained. “My mission right now is to fight everyone that wants to fight Gegard so when Gegard leaves the belt, I’ll be the next one in line. Maybe Gegard will go to light heavyweight, or welterweight. And if he does, I want to be the next guy in line to fight for the belt.”

And, while some fighters might be happy to make a gentlemen’s agreement to put team loyalties and friendships to the side for one night when a world title is up for grabs, van Steenis and Mousasi see things differently, and it means fans shouldn’t expect to see the pair face off for the belt, even if van Steenis one day ends up as the division’s top contender.

“We spoke about it a few times and we’re always laughing about it,” he said. “We’re like: ‘Yeah, don’t worry. I’ll let you knock me out for a million (dollars).’

“It’s like beating up your teacher – that’s stupid. He helped me to be a better fighter and built me up to be what I am now. Then I have to hit him in the cage, but for real? A punch can break your bones or knock out your teeth. You don’t want to do that to your friends – I think that’s messed up.”

Both men were in action the last time Bellator came to London, with van Steenis claiming an 80-second knockout and Mousasi capturing the Bellator middleweight title on a memorable night for the pair.

Now the duo are sharing a fight card at Wembley once again, and van Steenis is hopeful of a similarly successful night.

“I expect it to end like that again, with Gegard and I, plus two other Dutch fighters that are fighting there, all going home with a win,” he said. “It’s going to be a fantastic night, day and weekend!”

For more on Bellator London, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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