STAMFORD, Conn. – The heavyweight division will be prominently displayed Saturday at Bellator 225, and Javy Ayala hopes to make an impression in his co-main event fight with Vitaly Minakov.
Ayala (11-7 MMA, 6-4 BMMA) meets ex-champ Minakov (21-1 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) before the event headliner, which will see Matt Mitrione (13-6 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) rematch Sergei Kharitonov (29-7 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) in another important matchup.
With champion Ryan Bader set to put the heavyweight title up for grabs against Cheick Kongo next month at Bellator 226, Ayala thinks the two bouts could set up a title eliminator situation for who gets the Bader vs. Kongo winner.
“I feel like we’re in the same category as Matt and Sergei,” Ayala told MMA Junkie at Bellator 225 media day. “I would feel like the winner of us fights the winner of them, then boom, the winner should be next in line. I feel like we’re fighting at the top right now.”
Progressing toward a championship bout will be no easy task. Minakov will enter Bellator 225, which takes place at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., and airs on Paramount, on the cusp of his first loss after starting his career with 21 consecutive wins.
The Russian will surely be looking for a strong bounce-back performance, and Ayala knows he’s got his hands full.
“He’s a real tough guy,” Ayala said. “He comes ready to bang and I know this is going to be a really exciting fight. His style is to come straight forward, my style is the same way too. It’s going to make for a real exciting fight.”
Ayala has confidence in himself, though. He’s coming off a win over former UFC champion Frank Mir in December and is trying to carry the momentum of that significant moment into arguably the most crucial fight of his career.
“It is important, especially with him being a former champ,” Ayala said. “It is really big, not just fight-wise, but in my mind. I feel like this is going to put me up there to where I want to be.”
For more from Ayala, click on the video linked above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Javy Ayala hopes top-billed fights at Bellator 225 set up title eliminator