Austin Vanderford is on the short end of Bellator's middleweight title contenders, but people still can't seem to separate him from his wife Paige VanZant.
Vanderford (10-0) caught up with Fightful ahead of his fight with fellow-ranked middleweight Fabian Edwards at Bellator 259. Vanderford (no. 3) has embraced the "Mr. VanZant" gimmick and — even as he flirts with a world title shot — the fighter doesn't expect public perception to shift.
"Nah, I'm still Paige VanZant's husband," he laughed. "I think I'm accomplishing things on my own that are giving me the validity of being a fighter on my own, but I'm always going to be 'Paige VanZant's husband.' That's never going to change. I'm always going to be Mr. VanZant in everyone's eyes. Maybe not everyone, but to the majority of the fans. And I'm fine with that. I think it's going to be pretty cool when I raise the Bellator belt above my head and people are like, 'Oh yeah, Paige VanZant's husband is holding up the middleweight championship of Bellator.' I'm fine with that."
"I'm not a guy with a crazy ego," he continued. "I think that's something that has definitely helped me in this journey. There are a lot of people who maybe would have cracked under a lot of the pressure and scrutiny that they would have received for being Paige's husband. I'm a thick-skinned, tough-skinned guy. It's tough to break me that way. Like I said, I don't have a big ego. It's cool if I'm announced as Mr. VanZant when I win the title."
Vanderford is an avid game, often playing multiplayer first-person shooters with his inner circle. When asked how PVZ copes with him screaming into his headphones, Vanderford shared this gem:
"She actually put rules on me," he teased. "There are five things that my buddies and I say that I'm not allowed to say around her anymore. The first one is 'cuck.' I call everyone a cuck," Vanderford laughed. "Stuff like, 'I just beat these two dudes off.'"
Bellator 259 takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut on Friday, May 21. The Showtime card is headlined by a Bellator women's featherweight title fight pitting champion Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith. Keep up with Fightful for all your event-related coverage.