Bellator 227 (a.k.a. Bellator: “Dublin”) takes place inside 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland, this weekend (Fri., Sept. 27, 2019). The “Dublin” European Series portion will be headlined by “Strabanimal” James Gallagher (9-1) against Cal Ellenor (8-2) at Bantamweight, while the taped-delayed simulcast on Paramount and DAZN (watch here) will feature Benson Henderson (27-8) and Myles Jury (17-4) at Lightweight. Also featured at 155 pounds that evening, Brandon Girtz (16-8) will welcome Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran Jon Tuck (10-5) in his Bellator MMA debut. Girtz had been scheduled to face another fighter with UFC credentials in Paul Redmond (15-8), but Redmond pulled out with an injury and left Girtz with a new opponent on a few weeks notice.
The “Super Saiyan” from Guam won’t be an easier opponent for Girtz. He’s finished 33 percent of his fights by submission (five of 15) and 26 percent by knockout (four of 15) for an impressive nine finishes in 10 wins. Coming off a loss to Drew Dober last year before his release, Tuck will have a chip on his shoulder and something to prove in Bellator.
If Tuck wanted an easy first fight in Bellator, he wouldn’t have picked Girtz. The former NCAA Division II All-American is not easily taken down nor finished, and if you do go to the ground with Girtz it’s often bad news. 50 percent of his wins (eight of 16) come by submission, and Girtz hurts people with his hands too as Derek Campos knows well.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Girtz about an important Lightweight division bout with Tuck in Dublin, even though he’s a little bit sad to not be facing Paul Redmond.
“You know I was excited about Paul Redmond, given he’s from Ireland. I was really looking forward to stepping in enemy territory and taking on somebody that’s really well respected there. I was definitely disappointed but injuries happen you know, and I’ve got another good opponent in Jon Tuck. ”
In Tuck’s five losses to date, none have come by knockout or submission, so that’s just about as “tough” as it gets — he either wins the fight or goes the distance in a loss.
“I was worried that I wasn’t going to get as quality of an opponent, but I think they went out there and got me a tough guy that definitely likes to fight. (He’s) definitely somebody that’s never been finished, and that’s a big challenge that I’m taking on this one.”
Girtz also expects that Tuck will be extra motivated to impress the fans and the promotion.
“And I love it! I love people that want to come and fight. I think Tuck is definitely that guy. He feels like he has something to prove, (his) first fight in Bellator, and I think he’s going to come out guns blazing. That’s exactly the type of fight I like to be in.”
Having knocked out Luke Jelcic in his last trip overseas, the confidence level and the excitement are high for Girtz about going to Dublin for this card.
“You know the thing about traveling and fighting, that was my first one, but it’s an adventure. It’s not the same thing, it doesn’t even feel close to a normal fight to me. I look at it as an adventure, going across the world to fight somebody, and when you really sit down and think about it like that it’s actually pretty cool. I had fun with it and it’s going to be no different here.”
As much fun as it might be for Girtz, it’s not a game when it comes to his ambitions at 155 pounds. And he’s got one name he really wants to rematch with a win.
“I’ve really got my sights set on Michael Chandler again. That’s a very disappointing fight for me. Chandler’s always been somebody since I’ve joined (Bellator), my first photo shoot in Orlando, I seen him and at that time he was already established. That was the person I looked at that I was coming for. Two years ago I finally got to face him and my shoulder went out. That one really irks me more than any fight I’ve ever had. That’s somebody I’ve wanted to step in there with. I respect that man, I have nothing against him, but I feel like he’s still the top of my division and that’s where I’m aiming.”
Despite a long layoff since that Chandler fight, Girtz insists he’s currently injury free and the only reason he hasn’t been busier in the interim since is bad luck.
“This wasn’t ideal. Six months was not what I wanted to do here. Prior to that fight I was off for a year. The plan was to get in as soon as possible (but) it just didn’t work out. The opponents dropped through, things like that, so it just never materialized. After I go out there and after I get this victory and get my hand raised, I’m going to be asking to get in there as soon as possible. Hopefully this time that actually happens.”
If it takes a “Lightweight Grand Prix” for it to happen Girtz is EMPHATICALLY down for it.
“When they have a Lightweight tournament, which you would think should be soon, they haven’t told me nothing (or) given me any indication, they just said it’s going to be there — you know, I better be in that!! I’ve been with Bellator for how many years? I’m going on like gosh I don’t even know, seven (to) eight years I’ve been with this organization? If there’s a tournament to be had I’d better be in it. I don’t think that’s a question. When it gets done, when it gets put together, I’m gonna be in that tournament and I’m looking VERRRRRY forward to that.”
With a win over Tuck at Bellator 227 in Dublin, the long-time Bellator veteran may just be able to punch his ticket for that hypothetical tournament.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 227/Bellator: “Dublin” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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