Yannick Bahati feels reborn as a light heavyweight and feels as though a win over Melvin Manhoef in the main event of Bellator Milan could pave his way to the top of the division.
Bahati rode a three-fight losing streak into his light heavyweight and Bellator debut against Amir Dadovic. After submitting “The Dragon” in the first round of their Birmingham meeting, the former EFC and BAMMA middleweight champion admits he wished he moved up a division earlier.
“Ever since my ACL surgery in 2015 I put on a lot of muscle and getting back down to middleweight was becoming very difficult for me,” Bahati told MMA Fighting.
“Personally, I feel like I should’ve moved up to light heavyweight a long time ago, but obviously I was stubborn when I was winning—if it’s not broken you don’t fix it. I definitely feel like moving up to light heavy was the best move for my career.”
“Ryan Bader is a double champion at light heavy and heavyweight and I know that Bellator are in desperate need of light heavyweight competition for him,” he added. “This is the perfect opportunity for me, facing Melvin Manhoef. He’s been in there with some of the greatest MMA and kickboxing fighters of all time. I think a good win and a good finish will put me right up there with the best guys in the division.”
The Team Renegade fighter underlined his great respect for his legendary opponent Manhoef, but is adamant that he can stop the decorated kickboxer in the opening round.
“I’m a big fan of Melvin Manhoef—who isn’t? He has an exciting style and he’s been in there with the best in the world. For me, it’s a big dream and a big achievement and I’m really honored to fight Melvin Manhoef. At the end of the day, when I was offered this fight, my coach told me, ‘Melvin Manhoef is your meal ticket’ in terms of me supporting my family and bringing some good money in. I’ve seen guys go in there against him and show him too much respect, but for me, I’m coming out to kill. I’m coming to destroy him, I’m hungry. I want what he has. He has already made his name in the sport, he’s got the money and the fame and I want the same. Once that bell rings I’m coming out to finish him.”
“I think it will be a first-round knockout or I’ll stop with ground-and-pound. If it goes to the second I’ll knock him clean out,” said Bahati.
Bahati also underlined his intention to fight Karl Moore—a bout that was previously booked but was pulled when an injury forced the Irishman from the clash—as he sees the former Cage Warriors champion as the best light heavyweight in the U.K. and Ireland.
“I want to fight in Dublin against Karl Moore. I don’t need it to be next, but I want that fight back because I was supposed to fight Karl Moore a while back. He pulled out about a week before the fight, so I would love to get that fight in Dublin. It would nice to put him out in front of that home crowd.
“I believe that right now, Karl Moore is probably number one in England and Ireland and I want that spot. Hopefully we can make it happen in February for that Dublin card.”