Bellator 207: “Mitrione vs. Bader” takes place this Friday night (Oct. 12, 2018) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., featuring a semifinal match in the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix between Matt Mitrione (13-5) — who is riding a four-fight win streak — against the five-fight winning run of current Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (25-5).
Earlier in the evening, a crucial women’s Featherweight bout pits two potential contenders — Janay Harding (3-4) and Sinead Kavanagh (5-2) — against each other, with the winner possibly earning a future shot against reigning champion Julia Budd (12-2), which is no small matter given that Budd has a longer win streak than both Mitrione and Bader combined.
Kavanagh rattled off a four-fight win streak of her own until 2017, then experienced some of the growing pains young fighters do with two losses, including a split decision at Bellator 187 against “Angerfist” Arlene Blencowe. She rebounded nicely from that rough patch with a main card technical knockout win, setting up the SBG Ireland-trained prospect for a big 2018. “Hollow Point” Harding, meanwhile, has also been on the wrong end of a fight with Blencowe, although that one took place in Australia. Despite a loss to Amber Leibrock in her promotional debut, this fight could spring her up the ladder in a division where Budd has beaten everybody but these two women.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Harding about her preparation for a huge Bellator 207 fight, as well as how she got the “Hollow Point” nickname in the first place.
“My very first amateur fight in MMA, I kind of dominated, TKO win in the first round. It was a bit of a blasting. I think since then, when we were kind of brainstorming around nickname and fight name ideas, we kind of came up with that. It seemed relevant, the kind of blasting I was seeing was a good option, and yet it all kind of was consistent across. It ended up sticking and I’ve still got it now, which is surprising.”
Outside of mixed martial arts (MMA), Harding also has a background in boxing, and she credits the work she’s put in there for making her a better fighter overall.
“It’s always great to go back and specifically cover just the boxing side of things. I find that when I come back to MMA, my defense is better, my jab might be crisper and all that kind of stuff. I end up really benefiting off isolating that for maybe a few weeks, three to four weeks, and then coming back to MMA and incorporating it into my striking game in the MMA scene. I really feel like I’ve got a little benefit off even just competing and getting more ring time in competition and getting used to that kind of atmosphere as well.”
Going into the interview I knew that Kavanagh and Harding had a common opponent, but what I didn’t know was that Harding barely had any time to prepare to face Blencowe.
“I took the Arlene fight up on like two weeks notice and it was a very quick finish for me to get knocked out. I can’t necessarily compare the fights themselves, but I have trained with Arlene as well, which can kind of outline the fact that our strengths are very similar. Our striking in a general sense is very similar. I just have a different kind of technique and a different kind of game plan in comparison.”
It was only natural to follow up and find out if Harding and Blencowe were friends before and/or after their fight back in 2017.
“We were friends before. Obviously, the MMA fight scene in Australia isn’t very large and we’d fought on the same card before early in my career. We have a lot of mutual friends and stuff so yeah we had just been friends for a while and we had known each other. We took the fight up and we were still friends when we were fighting each other. We were in rehearsals sitting next to each other looking at Instagram videos the night before we were fighting each other. We’re gonna always be friends and we stayed friends, obviously after the fight even more so, and I think we’ll continue to do even if we have a rematch in the cards, which is definitely possible.”
Hindsight being 20/20, though, Harding wishes she had longer to prepare to face her friend.
“It was a kind of a funny part of my life where I was going through a lot of change in my personal life, and I was trying to move forward and dedicate a lot to this MMA career that I had started. I felt like I wasn’t getting a lot of opportunities and a lot of opponents so when one did come along I jumped at the idea of it. I really believed in myself no matter what but a couple more weeks and it would have made a massive difference.”
That’s why Harding is confident that we haven’t seen her best yet, and that a full camp for Kavanagh has made even better than her three knockout wins to date.
“I got matched up about six weeks ago from today so I’ve had plenty of time for this camp and I’ve been able to really establish a good camp here in Sydney. This time around as well (I’ve) added a couple more gyms and a couple more people on board for strength and conditioning, and extra things that I didn’t even have for my May camp. I’m looking forward to how that shows in the fight, for sure.”
What kind of fight can fans expect from Janay Harding vs. Sinead Kavanagh in Uncasville this weekend?
“I definitely think it will be a stand up fight, but not necessarily a war. I’m not going to get caught in any brawls like I have done in the past and like Sinead would prefer. You can kind of see from her fights that she likes being on the inside and she likes closing those heavy shots and that gives her the finish. I’m going to obviously avoid that. My striking is just a little bit more varied and there’s more variety in it. I’ll be able to use that to my advantage and I’ll be able to use my reach as well. I think it will be a stand up war, but not necessarily in a brawling kind of way, and I think there will be a finish for sure.”
That means Harding vs. Kavanagh is a fight not to be missed on Friday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Bader” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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