Linton “The Swarm” Vassell (14-4) is a native Londoner competing on the main card of Bellator 134: British invasion. His latest fight in Bellator saw “The Swarm” serve Emanuel Newton the toughest title defense of his career. Now making his way back up the light heavyweight ladder, we ask just how he plans to defeat his opponent Remy Sokoudjou.
Scifighting: How much time do you typically spend in the U.S. before your fights? Where are you training?
Vassell: I’m here in Florida right now with Blackzillians. I’ve only got a three hour flight to Connecticut.
SF: What have you taken away from Tyrone Spong and Nieky Holzken dropping in to Blackzillians?
Vassell: The whole game because we train everything here. It’s an honor to learn from world’s best–different techniques, rolling with these guys as well. You see them on TV, but I never thought I’d be training with them and rolling with them. I’m definitely taking a lot from this.
SF: Did the difference in the UK’s talent pool prompt your move to Florida?
Vassell: It definitely helps. I always wanted to train in America, I got the chance to come over with Blackzilians and did my whole fight camp over here. It definitely helped to move over here.
SF: What’s the support and reception been like on the British Invasion Press Tour in the U.K.?
Vassell: It’s big time. I’ve got everyone supporting me in the growing sport. It’s definitely helping me bring more fans into it and watching.
SF: Your fight with Emanuel Newton was definitely one of the toughest of his career. What was it like to fight in the main event and follow up with this card?
Vassell: It was an honor to fight in the main event and the world title. I thought I was going to have another fight or two before I got to fight for that. It was a great experience and to now be on the main card again to fight is a big experience, something I’m looking forward to.
SF: Have you had a chance to train with fellow Brit Liam McGeary? He’d make a great training partner as a fellow light heavyweight.
Vassell: No I haven’t the chance at the moment. We are supposed to battle soon if he comes down. That’s something that I really want to do at a later time.
SF: How did you earn the nickname “The Swarm?”
Vassell: The way I got the name was the way I finish my fights. One of my sponsors was watching some of my bouts and said wow, you’re finishing your fights quick and soon as you’re on top of them you’re swarming them. Then he’s like, have you seen the film The Swarm? And it came from that. He said I was swarming everyone, soon as you get on top of them, you don’t give them a chance.
He told me the name and I was like I don’t know I don’t know. I had a few more fights and I kept winning and it kind of stuck. With this sport, it actually says what I do. I swarm people.
SF: How did you get into professional MMA as a career? Did you have any martial arts experience prior to training?
Vassell: I was athletic when I was younger, I did track and field. I was into weight lifting and I started kickboxing to keep fit. I didn’t want to fight or compete or anything, it was more of a way to stay fit. One of my friends was doing MMA at the time and me and him sparred in wrestling. I ended up picking him up and slamming him to the floor and he was like I think you should come down to the gym, I think you’d be really good at MMA.
After a bit of thinking about it I went to the gym and managed to tap out some of the pro fighters that were there at my weight that were fighting for a number of years. He said I should take a pro bout and I had the pace for it. I got the win within a minute and 16 seconds and that was it and I sort of had a new taste so to say. I had a taste for something and I liked it. That fight and others carried on, I think I had another fight 2 weeks after that.
SF: It’s uncanny how many fighters we talk to that have a similar experience. They give MMA a try and seem to fall into it.
Vassell: I watched it before I was doing it. When I first started watching it, it was like Chuck Lidell, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and those guys. I never thought “I’ll give that a go” and it’s funny how I fell into it as you say.
Who were some of your favorites at that time?
Vassell: Those were the ones I mainly looked up to, Randy Couture was one of my favorites. The way he was, his Greco-Roman Wrestling, I liked the way he fought. Royce Gracie and his submissions, he was finishing everyone.
SF: Randy’s skills were amazing and so was his ability to stay competitive into his mid 40’s.
Vassell: He was called “The Natural” for a reason.
SF: Sokoudjou is a veteran fighter of many different promotions. What is your strategy against him?
Vassell: I’ve got the instruments to beat him. I’ve got the range, height, speed, power–the ground speaks for itself. I got the strength and the cardio aspect as well. I’m going to all of this to my advantage, go in and do the business.
SF: We’re looking forward to the British invasion. Hopefully Bellator gets to visit your shores sometime soon.
Vassell: That would be great man, that would be wicked.
See Linton Vassell take on veteran Remy Sokoudjou at Bellator 134 on Spike on February 27th at 9/8C.