Ross Houston fires warning shot at rivals as he prepares for Bellator debut
Get the Inverness Courier sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
ROSS Houston will take another step towards the very top of mixed martial arts tomorrow when he makes his Bellator debut.
The Hitman will headline the company’s first-ever show in France against established welterweight contender Michael ‘Venom’ Page looking to jump right into the title picture.
Highland Martial Arts Centre’s head coach will be the underdog against an athlete who holds the records for the most wins by stoppage, and the most wins by knockout in the history of the company’s division. However, the undefeated Houston is not intimidated by the prospect of going toe-to-toe with Page – in fact he specifically requested the opportunity.
“I could quite easily have beaten lesser opponents for the payday, but I wanted to beat him,” Houston explained.
“I always want the biggest names, and the bigger challenges. Bring it on. “This is a good opportunity to prove I’m the best welterweight in Europe right now, and I can put my name into the frame to win a second world title.
“He’s obviously a flashy fighter – I respect the skills, everyone knows he’s a dangerous striker, but he’s got his nice finishes against lesser opponents who don’t have much experience.
“I think it’s a good styles match, because I come forward a lot, I’m tough, I’m very good at wrestling and grappling,
I’m fit and strong and big for the weight. “He will be flashy, he will be feinting and faking and trying to set traps, but we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve as well and I’m looking forward to showing
that on fight night.”
Houston has been in training for his debut since before lockdown after signing with Bellator at the beginning of the year. This first fight may be coming later than expected, but that has given him extra time to be as ready as he can be considering Houston’s last bout was in June 2019 – a no contest against Nicolas Dalby, who signed a UFC contract in the aftermath of that encounter. Page is known for being a mental test for his opponents just as much as a physical and technical one, with his unorthodox style often an asset in getting under their skin. Mental strength is something Houston sees as his biggest attribute though, so he has no concerns over any potential mind-games.
Houston is also looking at the weaknesses that Page’s only blemish on his record, getting knocked out by current Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima, may have exposed that can give him any advantage. “The mental part of my game is my strongest part,” Houston insisted.
“You aren’t going to break me at all, or get in my head. I’ll be in his head instead. “It’s something that comes naturally to me, so I don’t need to overthink anything in the m e n t a l aspect. “He can do what he wants, he can play any games that he wants, I’m not going to fall for it and it’s not going to change that I’m going to smash him.
“He had that loss against Lima, but his style exposes his legs a lot, so he’s always going to be prone to a leg kick.
“It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to land on him, a lot of people try and he’s quite evasive, but it’s definitely a chink in his armour so we’ll be looking to exploit that as well as the other tricks up my sleeve.”
That Houston was supposed to debut in June against Neiman Gracie in the United States only adds to his determination to have his hand raised tomorrow.
It almost feels as if one opportunity to make his mark has already slipped away, but the Hitman feels as if this is a better fight for him anyway – both stylistically and to launch his name into the upper rungs of the Bellator welterweight ladder at the first opportunity. “I was gutted to be honest,” he recalled.
“It would have been cool being out in Chicago to face Neiman Gracie, but it wasn’t to be, and you can’t sweat things that are out of your reach.
“To be honest, in hindsight it has worked out better, because I think MVP is a bigger name, more of a household name. “Neiman Gracie might have been a tougher match up stylistically, he just won recently against someone quite good, so it has worked out better, I’m not too fussed. “This is the first major MMA event in French history, which is quite cool. “I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a great experience and it’s going to skyrocket my career even further.”