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Bellator Milan co-headliner Ashley Reece relishing step up in level of competition

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Ashley Reece is looking to take full advantage of a late-notice opportunity when he features in the co-main event of Bellator Milan this weekend. UFC veteran, Galore Bofando, was originally scheduled to face Stefano Paterno in the fifth installment of the European Series but had to pull out due to an injury. With only about a month to get ready, Ashley Reece (8-1) answered Bellator’s call and is ready to step into the spotlight at welterweight for the biggest opportunity of his career so far.

The man known as ‘The Beast’ used to compete in running when he was younger but when he stopped doing that he really wanted to find something that would challenge himself. Reece always enjoyed individual sports more than team competitions when he was growing up so he decided to give MMA a go as it was something that he had always enjoyed watching. After going 4-0 in his amateur career, the Englishman made his professional debut in March 2015. He won his first six fights within the space of two and a half years but tasted defeat for the first time against current Cage Warriors title contender, Adam Proctor, in ACB when he dropped a unanimous decision.

Reece was a beneficiary of Bellator’s venture into the European market and made his promotional debut in February when he got his hand raised against John-Ross Harkins by first round TKO. In his sophomore outing, he got the victory over Craig Turner via a unanimous decision in a bout where his wrestling advantage proved too much for his opponent to overcome. It wasn’t the most eventful fight of all time but Reece was happy to get the win and keep his momentum going.

“My performance against Craig Turner was a solid one,” said Reece. “There are things that needed ironing out after that fight which I’ve been working on for the last few months. The morning after that bout I was working out in the hotel gym. I’m very hungry and happy with the position I’m in at Bellator so I get after it every day.”

The late-notice nature of this fight won’t affect Reece as he is always training and doesn’t allow himself to get out of shape. When he walks down the ramp at the Allianz Cloud in Milan, Italy it will be the first time that the 31-year-old has fought outside of England and he will be standing across from a hometown favourite. Stefano Paterno (12-3-1) will be making his Bellator debut coming off the back of a razor-close split decision loss to Ross Houston which saw him concede the Cage Warriors belt. The Italian has finished 8 of his 12 professional wins due to strikes which shows the threat he poses when on the feet or on top of his opponent. However, Reece is motivated to try and overcome a name familiar to European fans and consequently gain more notoriety internationally.

“A win over Paterno will keep me going in the direction I’m wanting to go,” explained Reece. “I’m hungry to improve and eager to continue winning. I have been patiently waiting to be matched and I’m excited that Bellator have given me this calibre of opponent. I’m looking forward to showing people the improvements I have made and to beat Paterno no matter what happens in the cage.”

Bellator Milan: Manhoef v Bahati will air live at 10pm BST on Channel 5 in the UK and on the Bellator Mobile App in the US at 5pmET/4pmC.

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