SBG Ireland representative Ion Pascu feels his time has finally come.
The 36-year-old fighter has stepped up to face Lorenz Larkin at Bellator 207 after a rib injury forced Erick Silva to pull out of the Bellator welterweight grand prix alternate bout. Pascu also made his Bellator debut on short notice, losing a unanimous decision to undefeated prospect and fellow grand prix entrant Ed Ruth this past April.
“I signed earlier this year a four-bout contract with Bellator,” Pascu told Sherdog.com “I have already imagined my path in there. I am going to win this fight, enter the welterweight grand prix, smack all the other guys, then take home the belt. This is America, land of all opportunities, I am here to take mine.”
“The Bombardier” had another (undisclosed) fight scheduled for this fall, so he was already in shape and ready to fight, even though he took the fight against Larkin on a couple of weeks’ notice.
“I was already training,” Pascu said. “I had another fight scheduled later this year. I’ve helped Conor McGregor in the preparation of his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, then I went home for a couple of weeks. I kept on staying light and in good shape. When I received the call, I answered immediately yes.”
The Romanian fighter had been helping McGregor prepare for his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. During one of a particularly hard sparring session, he saw one of his teeth flying out of his mouth after taking a shot from “The Notorious.”
“I’ve sparred with Conor McGregor, helping him both with striking and wrestling,” Pascu added. “We had some good sparring sessions at SBG. As you already know, a tooth of mine became embedded in McGregor's knuckle. It was fun, he is a great guy and a great athlete. I think that he will do so much better when he will get his rematch. Nurmagomedov was the better man that night, but what we saw wasn’t the real Notorious. I don’t want to comment what happened after the match. It’s a shame for our sport to watch someone sucker punching an athlete from behind.”
Both Larkin and Pascu are coming off a victory in their last match. Larkin scored his first Bellator win against Fernando Gonzalez last January. Pascu won his last fight outside Bellator by besting Alex Lohore in the main event of BAMMA 35.
“I like to study my opponents,” Pascu said. “When I step into the cage, my shots have to follow a specific pattern. I am very aware of what are my strengths and my opponent’s weaknesses. I don’t like to be surprised once I’m inside the cage. John Kavanagh will be in my corner as usual. He had been busy lately with Conor’s match, but he managed to find a little time for me and he gave me a couple of precious counsels in the preparation for this fight.”
Pascu knows that he will have a whole country behind him. There are not many Romanian fighters that can pride themselves to be fighting at these levels, in a Bellator main card. Pascu is aware of this, and wants to live it as long as it lasts.
“This will be the most important fight a Romanian MMA fighter has ever been into,” he said. “I have my experiences, my main events and other stuff. It’s not like I have emotions, but I am aware of the importance of this bout. Larkin is a very experienced guy, he fought in Strikeforce, UFC and Bellator. I am going to give him the toughest fight of his career. I’ve waited all my life to have this chance and I want to squeeze it.”