The talk is done ahead of this week’s BELLATOR MMA 284: Gracie vs. Yamauchi event, as participants shared their thoughts today ahead of their appearance in the BELLATOR cage on Friday.

The event will air live on SHOWTIME this Friday, August 12, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. 

The preliminary fight card will begin at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT, and will be distributed on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV.

Here’s what the fighters had to say at today’s official media day:


“It’s amazing; I love this promotion. They’ve treated me so nice. How can they not like? I make fun fights, I always try to go for the finish, and it’s always a great, fun fight.”

“A lot of people were criticizing me because the fight was mostly striking, but I made Logan Storley have a fun fight… how hard is that? I think it’s gonna be more grappling on this fight because he’s not afraid to go to the floor. Storley was afraid to go to the ground — no disrespect, but he said that.”

“I think he’s great, a very good fighter and a very dangerous fighter. I respect him and his style a lot, so I’ve trained for this fight and I’m ready to add his name to my list, as well.”


“I’m very excited, and at the same time, I’m very prepared. I have a lot of experience here in BELLATOR, but this is the time that I feel mature enough to be the main event. It’s very meaningful for me and for my team, making this the main event. Not just the main event, but against Neiman. It’s a meaningful opponent to me. I’m very excited.”

“It’s very meaningful for me to fight against a Gracie. What really makes it important is fighting a guy who comes from a family that made it all here. When we made the deal to fight Neiman, I was thinking about the very beginning of my career and the first time I watched Royce Gracie, Rickson Gracie. I thought there must be a meaning for that. My first main event, five round against a Gracie.”

“I think lightweight and welterweight are the hardest weight classes in MMA. I’m moving up. I used to fight tough guys at lightweight, but I’m a little happier and healthier this time. Way better now at 170. This is my weight class. I’m not cutting less; I got bigger. Real weight. Muscles, not fat. I work even harder, but now, with health and some quality muscles. I think welterweight is a good opportunity to prove I was doing something wrong with the weight.”

“I hate to predict fights because I’m not good at it. My predictions are very bad. But I think, at some point in the fight, we will grapple. If he wants to stand up, good, I’m ready to fight on the fight. But I’m a natural grappler, so I’m ready to grapple with him.”

“I’m just focused on the win, no matter how I’m going to win. No matter how much time it’s going to take, I’m going to go out there and win. Competition wins fights. I like to finish my fights on the ground because I don’t like to hurt my opponents, but this is a tough business. We go to battle. I know I’ll have to do it, but what matters to me is the competitive part of the game. You have to win the game.”


“When the Bader fight was over, I knew it was very close. I thought when I went to the center of the cage, I thought I won. But judges say another thing. I think I must win this fight with Steve Mowry, then I think we must fight Bader again.”

“I don’t know; we will see in the fight. He looks good, but he’s not fought with good fighters. I don’t see good fighters he’s won against. He fought a good Turkish fighter, [Gokhan] Saricam, but cannot wrestle. Only a striker. That’s why I don’t think he’s fought a fighter like me.”

“I hope it’s this year, but we’ll see what the political situation is. When BELLATOR can do a big tournament, I think that’s when Fedor will fight. Maybe this year, maybe next year.”


“[BELLATOR has] been great. Ever since I signed with them. They took a big chance on me, and I took a chance on them, and it’s been great.”

“Honestly, I’m just so focused on what’s coming up. He is far and away the toughest opponent I’ve ever had in terms of everything. He’s a guy that’s been there and done that. He’s very skilled; he has a skillset that a lot of people just haven’t been able to get around, and I look forward to getting in there and trying to figure him out.”

“I thought it was a great performance [by Moldavsky against Ryan Bader]. If I were to have scored that fight, I would have scored it for Moldavsky.”

“[The fighters from Fedor Emelianenko’s team are] all very nice and very stoic. They come hard, the come fast, they’re well-rounded. It’s going to be a great challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.”



“It makes me feel good to see our division growing. We’re steadily adding good talent, and I’m super proud to be part of the first wave.”

“I didn’t realize she was so young, because I remember her being a part of the first wave that got signed to the division. That shows how talented, young, and hungry see was when I was going for the belt, so I know she has that drive to prove she belongs with the top of the division. I think she’s gonna come into the fight pretty strategic, because the two fights I’ve lost have been very strategic on my opponents’ part. They really worked on nullifying my submission game, so I think Bruna is going to be prepared for my style and be strategic.”

“Even with one arm in my last fight, I was able to finish the fight. And even with a broken nose, I was able to get through the fight. Boo-hoo, I have two losses on my record. I can walk through a flying knee and keep fighting. I don’t really care that I lost those last two. I think the people who are making it a big deal, their opinion doesn’t matter.”

“I would love to continue with BELLATOR, whether that’s in or out of the cage. I want to say I have my mind made up about retiring when my contract’s done. I just think that for the time being, I need a break. Like I said, I would love to continue my journey with BELLATOR even after I’m done inside the cage. I love being at the desk, being in front of the camera. If there’s a way to do it, let’s do it, BELLATOR!”

“I’m always looking for the finish. I’ve got to represent my style, 10th Planet, my masters, Eddie Bravo and Richie Martinez. I’m proud to have the most submissions among women in BELLATOR. Me and Neiman, we’re on the hunt right now.”

“If all goes well, I would like to retire in Hawaii. I don’t think there’s any other option to retire other than Hawaii. That would be the ideal option, but we’ll see what BELLATOR has planned.”


“For this fight, Michelle Niccolini helped me a lot. Everybody in the fighting world knows Niccolini is a tough fighter, with jiu jitsu. She’s helped my jiu jitsu a lot, and I feel very ready for this fight.”

“I’m very grateful for BELLATOR for the past six years. Everything from the past six years was very exciting for me, and I’m very excited for the show… Now, I have a whole different scenario. I don’t have any injuries, and I’m in the best place in my career and my personal life. I’m ready, I have my whole team beside me, and everything that I need. I’m ready now.”

“I was very happy with this announcement. I know that I need to be prepared, and now I’m here, I’m ready, and I know what it takes to get to the championship.”

“She was a little bit frustrated with her game [in her last fight], and I came here to get her best version.”


“I was back right away, I think within a couple weeks. We spent a few weeks in Ireland to check things out, drink a few Guinesses… To be honest, throughout life and my career, I’ve taken so many losses whether on the wrestling mat or just losing money. I put my heart and soul into everything I do. It sucks, and it hurts to taste defeat, but I know you’re going to suffer a loss. You have to evaluate and see where you can improve, and I think I’ve done a good job of that. I’m going to continue to get better, and you’re gonna see a better version of Austin Vanderford every fight. I feel like I’m in a really good spot mentally, as far as that goes.”

“It sucked. I had one of the worst night’s of my career as far as competing. But that’s the sport that we’re in, and I’d be a liar if I said that’d never happened to me in wrestling, as well. It was immediately about what went wrong and what can be fixed. I took a shitty shot, I didn’t set it up, and I didn’t allow myself to get comfortable. There were mistakes that were made that have been fixed. I wasn’t meant to be champion, but I feel in my heart that my time is still coming.”

“I was gonna fight a motherf***er, no matter what. Whoever was gonna step up, that’s who I was gonna fight. Aaron Jeffery’s a really good fighter, and I had pictured myself fighting him at some point. He might not have a number next to his name, but I could see him beating several ranked opponents… I’ve seen him compete, and I watched his BELLATOR debut. He’s had some good fights, and he’s fought some tough competition. I’d imagine if he’s taking the fight on 8 days’ notice, he’s good with where he’s at with his cardio. I’m looking forward to it this Friday night.”

“My goal is just to go out and do my job and get the work done. Like I said, I don’t care who’s standing across the cage from me. I’m looking forward to going out there and taking care of business… I’ll never look past a single opponent or make these big plans.”

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“We got a really good squad and good comradery. I’m really happy to see those guys do well too, and it gives you a sense of confidence. It’s a really cool thing. I hope that one of my next opponents is Johnny, because it means he’s defending the belt and that I’m doing my thing, too. I just want us to both do as well as we can… We would all make it work. We just had teammates fight last week. We’re all really loyal to American Top Team, but I don’t see any of us fighting unless it’s for a title. I’m not going anywhere; I’ll retire with American Top Team. I ain’t moving gyms. We’re a pretty close-knit team, and everyone’s looking out for each other’s best interests.”

“Going into most of my fights, it’s what Austin Vanderford’s going to do. Of course, there’s nuances of different fighters, and training for a title fight there’s some different things. This opponent, he’s more a standup guy like my previous opponent was. Aaron’s maybe a little more well-rounded than the other guy, but I’m going to go out there and assert my dominance to get the job done.”

“I just want to be the best version of myself, whether I beat someone’s face in and knock somebody out or whether I submission somebody. I’m just trying to get the job done.”


“I was excited. I talked about this fight before to my managers, and when we heard someone was injured and they needed a fill-in spot, here where are. We said yes within maybe 120 minutes of the offer. I only had eight days’ notice for this fight, so there wasn’t much bringing guys in. I train with some of the best wrestlers in Canada at Brock University, so I feel prepared for this, for sure… Honestly, I’m training with wrestlers all the time, so it’s kind of the perfect fight with me. This is a good fight for me on short notice.”

“I’m sure he’s worked on some of his mistakes and doesn’t want to do that again, but he’s an aggressive guy. I definitely expect a strong start from him. I train with the top wrestlers in my country. I think my defensive wrestling is one of the strongest parts of my skillset. I think I have the gas tank to match him; the physicality.”

“There’s definitely more pressure because of who it is, but maybe there’s less pressure because it’s short notice, and he’s ranked but I’m not. I think it’s gonna put my name on the map, get me in the rankings, and get more eyes on me. Maybe even some more money in my pocket.”

“Josh Hill’s one of my buddies; we’ve trained together a bunch, so I’m pumped for both of us.”


“I asked for somebody in the Top 10, and they told me nobody was available right now. I said I wanted to fight someone ahead of me in the rankings, even though I know the rankings don’t matter too much. They gave me Mattos, and then Mattos pulled out, so now we ended up with Breno. Once the opponent switched, I looked him up. He’s good. I think he’s a dangerous opponent, and I think he’s going to look to come in hot and make a statement off of my name… What are you going to do? I think you always need the big performance. It sucks what happened. I couldn’t get into the tournamernt as planned. I get a win here, it should shoot me up even higher. This division’s so stacked; they should have a Top 20. Every guy in the Top 15 is tough, so it doesn’t matter.”

“It wasn’t a big change. Like I said, another Brazilian, and I think the same style. Both are good strikers with good grappling, but who like to strike also. It was a pretty similar matchup, so I didn’t think it was too different… I think I’m the more well-rounded of the two, and I’ll bring in the experience factor. I think fight IQ: I think I’m smarter, and that will be the difference-maker.”

“With the Grand Prix and everything, it kind of holds things up a little bit. I’m focused on this one for sure. They’ve got to give me someone whose ahead of me in the rankings, someone who’s going to put me right up in title contention again. We’ll just see how it plays out.”

“It’s a good fight [between Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabatello]. I think Stots; I gotta pick Stots. I think he’ll be able to nullify the wrestling of Sabatello, and I think he’s the more well-rounded to win.”

“Me and Aaron were talking about a month ago. I haven’t had a teammate on the same card as me in a long time, so it’ll be fun. It’ll be good to have someone beside me going through the same journey. It’s been fun; I’ve got someone else who’s suffering with me [cutting weight].”

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“This is a dream come true for me. I always wanted to be a fighter and obviously fight for a bigger promotion, and BELLATOR’s been just that… I feel more relaxed now than I probably ever have for a professional fight. This whole process is becoming normal — I’m just getting a litter better at it, a little more practiced each time.”

“[BELLATOR heavyweight champion Ryan] Bader’s a great friend of mine. He’s a mentor; a training partner. He’s the best version of that in every way. I really can’t say enough about what Bader’s done for me and my career, and who he is as a person… The Baders are going to be here.”

“My first thought was, Tyson’s got a lot of experience. 25 professional fights. Even though he has a lot of losses, you can’t discount that type of experience. I imagine we’re probably going to see something pretty similar to what we saw in 2018, even though he’s fighting at a heavier weight now… He’s experienced, and he comes to fight. From what I’ve seen, he tends to come out pretty aggressive. He comes forward and gets right into it, so I’d imagine that’s probably what he’s going to do. We just prepare for what we want to do and get prepared to run our own offense.”

“I’ve been chomping at the bit. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited to hurt somebody… When I get in there, it’s going to pop off… I’m absolutely dialed in. I’m going to bring it.”


“I’m lovin’ it. It’s a cool experience. It’s what I signed up. It’s what I get paid to do, and I love it. The BELLATOR staff’s really good… I guess the nerves with the major promotion: it’s a thing, right, with a major promotion. I got to prove it to myself that I do belong here, that I do love this sport, that I am an MMA fighter. I guess there’s some butterflies, but I like it. There’s nothing else I can do to feel this alive.”

“It was never a matter of if I was gonna do MMA, it was a matter of when I was gonna do MMA. I love doing it, I love watching it. I just wanted to see how much I was gonna get paid. I’m trying to fight to change my life out here. BELLATOR, Mr. Coker, gave me the opportunity, and I’m thankful for it.”

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that’s one thing; BELLATOR’s the one cutting the check for the debut. Second, I don’t feel like they have a good face here at middleweight; I feel like mine would be a lot better. Third, I felt wanted. I felt appreciated. I felt like I was bringing my talent somewhere where it was appreciated.

“Wrestling wins fights. I believe the best base for fighting is wrestling, because it controls where the fight takes place. That’s my theory of why it transitions so well. If you can control another human, you control the fight. If you look at a lot of the champions, they come from wrestling. Pick any of the champs that come from Iowa Central. Jon Jones, Colby Covington, Phil Hawes. Not to mention, I’m making my debut at 30-year-old, just like Daniel Cormier did. When you see all these high-level guys, training at the Olympic training center with Kamaru Usman, it’s hard not to believe that you can do at least the same as them. It’s cool to follow these guys and follow their paths.”

“Y’all are gonna tune in, you’re gonna see this performance, and you’re gonna see a world-class athlete. I just want to make an impact, so I am memorable. I feel like that’s half the battle in the game, to be memorable. You’ve seen the way I wrestle. I’ve always been known to be entertaining.”

“A big statement wouldn’t entail out-wrestling him; that wouldn’t do much for me. A knockout, a big slam, or a submission, that would entail a big statement to me. Something you haven’t already seen from me.”

Friday, August 12 — 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT

Welterweight Main Event: #5-Neiman Gracie (11-3) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (27-5)
Heavyweight Co-Main Event: #1-Valentin Moldavsky (11-2) vs. #5-Steve Mowry (10-0)
Flyweight Main Card Bout: #4-Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (11-2) vs. Bruna Ellen (6-3)
Heavyweight Main Card Bout: #9-Said Sowma (8-3) vs. #10-Gokhan Saricam (7-1)
Middleweight Main Card Bout: #2-Austin Vanderford (11-1) vs. Aaron Jeffery (12-3)

BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | Pluto TV
6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT

Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: #9-Josh Hill (21-4) vs. Marcos Breno (14-2)
Flyweight Preliminary Bout: #6-DeAnna Bennett (12-7-1) vs. #8-Justine Kish (8-5)
Light Heavyweight Preliminary Bout: Sullivan Cauley (3-0) vs. Tyson Jeffries (14-11)
Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Patrick Downey III (0-0) vs. Jeff Souder (0-0)
Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Isaiah Hokit (1-1) vs. Nick Perez (0-0)
Heavyweight Preliminary Bout: Bailey Schoenfelder (2-0) vs. Mark Currier (1-1)
Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: Mitchell McKee (2-0) vs. Tony Ortega (5-4)
175-lb Contract Weight Amateur Bout: Brett Bye (1-0) vs. M, A, Yah II (4-0)

*Card subject to change.