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Anastasia Yankova Looking Forward to Fighting in Italy Again

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At Bellator 176 this weekend, rising Russian star Anastasia Yankova will look to keep the unbeaten start to her career alive when she faces Greek opponent Elina Kallionidou. The bout will serve as the co-main event on the MMA portion of the card, which also features an undercard of Bellator Kickboxing matches.

For Yankova, it will be her first fight since a hard fought spilt decision win over Veta Arteaga at Bellator 161 in September of last year. It is a fight that Yankova feels she learned a lot from. “This fight was an important experience,” Yankova told MMA Latest News. “But it is not because I got busted up. It was my first fight in the U.S, in Texas against a girl from Texas. It was the first time I was booed going to the cage because she was the hometown favourite. I could feel the crowd cheering for her, which means they were against me and that messed with me, which it shouldn’t because I am a professional. Well, now I have learned my lesson and I am sure that if I was put in a similar position it would not mess with my head again.

There was perhaps as much reaction in the aftermath, not to the fight itself, but to a post by Yankova on her social media alongside the caption ‘This is MMA, babe’ which showed the bruising and swelling she suffered in the bout. The reaction online was overwhelmingly positive, but Yankova insists she did not share the picture to get a reaction, but that she was simply being real. “To be honest, I never really post anything just to get a reaction,” she honestly said. “Once in a while I might mess with my followers, but most of the time I am just sharing my life as it happens – and a busted up face is part of my life also.

Bellator 176 will be the second time Yankova has fought in Italy after her promotional debut at Bellator 152 last April. It was an experience that has stayed with the Russian ever since and she cannot wait to fight in front of the Italian crowd again. “I was blown away by the fan reception in Italy,” she recalled. “After the fight everyone wanted pictures, it was amazing. I didn’t expect that since it was my debut in Bellator. It was unforgettable and I promised everyone that I would come back if there was an opportunity to do so and here we are. I’m glad to come back and fight for the Italian fans.

As for her opponent, Elina Kallionidou, who lost her own Bellator debut to Sinead Kavanagh in December of last year, Yankova decided against predicting how the fight would go, but knows what she has to do. “I watched her fight (against Kavanagh) with my coach. You know what? This time I will shy away from predictions. Last time it backfired with Veta – we expected a ground battle and it didn’t happen. So all I will say is that it is another fight, another test for me on my quest to reach the top of the division.

In her relatively short MMA career to date, Yankova has seen her profile soar at a rapid rate, which has led to increased media exposure, including being featured in Russian Vogue magazine. This has, of course, led to a number of fighters publically calling to fight her. Yankova remains untroubled by any of that, and believes that every fighter has a different way of approaching such matters. “Being in Vogue magazine is definitely a sign (of her popularity growth), especially since I never conformed to the standards set by others. Whether in behaviour, beauty or lifestyle, I am different from most of the girls featured in these magazines. I never abandoned my principals and, without focusing on it, ended up being featured in a lot of Russian publications.

With regards to this leading to her being ‘called out’ by more and more fighters, Yankova knows it is just part of the MMA game. “Each fighter builds his or her own career as they see fit,” she explained. “For me, I don’t have to call anyone out to get attention. For others, it might be their only way to get attention. That’s it.

With that heightened profile came a massive rise in popularity, both at events and online on social media. It is something that Yankova embraces and she certainly appreciates the support of her fans, while also realising the responsibility that comes along with her popularity. “I just think I have the best fans,” she smiled. “Even if some of them just like me as a pretty girl who can fight. A lot of them are very deep and interesting people – I can see that when I read the comments on my posts and the way they react to what I say. I feel supported by a lot of people. At times, I feel like for many I am almost a symbol of freedom to choose your own path, without regard to stereotypes and negative opinions. For me, that is very important and it is a role I take great responsibility in and very proud of.

Bellator 176 takes place on April 8th from Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy. The main event will see Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef rematch for the Bellator MMA middleweight title. However, for many, the highlight will be the co-main event between Yankova and Kallionidou, as the young Russian looks to continue her ascension towards potential Bellator superstardom.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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