SAN JOSE, Calif. – Don’t look now, but Linton Vassell is right in the middle of another title picture.
Vassell (22-8 MMA, 11-5 BMMA) found himself in trouble early and often in his heavyweight bout against Tim Johnson on Friday at Bellator 277. But after nearly being stopped multiple times, Vassell somehow put together a rally that ended with an improbable TKO victory at the 4:21 mark of Round 1.
Vassell, 38, twice has fought for the Bellator light heavyweight title in his career – and come up short both times. Now 4-1 with four consecutive wins since moving up to heavyweight in March 2019, Vassell is thinking about the third time being the charm to attain gold in a new division.
“The title fight is always No. 1,” Vassell told reporters, including MMA Junkie, after his win. “We never know what Bellator is gonna do. If I don’t get that, then I’ve got other plans. But that’s what I’m looking for, is the world title.”
In two previous title fights at 205 pounds, Vassell lost to Emmanuel Newton by fifth-round submission in 2014 and Ryan Bader by second-round TKO in 2017.
Vassell, a 14-year MMA veteran who turns 39 in June, is surprising himself at this stage of his career.
“No matter how much you train and how many rounds you do with your partners and how fit you are, you always think, ‘If I get clipped, can I take it? Will I gas?’ And nights like this show I can take a shot,” Vassell said. “Same with the Tyrell (Fortune) fight and other fights I have won. It’s obviously a big pat on my back to say I’ve still got it at 38, 39 in June. So I feel like I’m just getting better, especially at heavyweight. I’m coming for that gold.