Liam McGeary is ready to get back to work. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It’s been approximately three months since Liam McGeary captured the Bellator MMA light heavyweight title, and the 32-year-old Brit is getting the urge to step back into the cage.
“Now I’m getting back into the gym and I started training,” McGeary told Sherdog.com. “As soon as I walk into the gym, I see all my mates that had fights over the last few weeks as well. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in there.”
The Team Renzo Gracie product went past the opening stanza for the first time in his promotional tenure at Bellator 134 "British Invasion" on Feb. 27, as he earned a hard-fought five-round verdict over then champion Emanuel Newton in the evening’s main event at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Feb. 27.
McGeary admits that it was the toughest test of his career thus far.
“And I expected it to be,” he said. “I was going for a belt so I knew it was gonna be no walk in the park. And it wasn’t. It was a great fight. I prepared for it, and I’m happy with the result.”
An active guard kept Newton on the defensive for much of the fight, and several times McGeary appeared to be on the verge of a submission only to see “The Hardcore Kid” survive. A late rally by Newton in the championship rounds was not enough to turn the tide, as McGeary edged the Californian on the judges’ scorecards. McGeary would not be surprised if the two light heavyweights’ paths crossed again somewhere down the line, although he expects a rematch would yield a more timely outcome.
“If we fought again it wouldn’t be five rounds, that’s for sure,” McGeary said. “But yeah, he’s a great fighter. He held the belt and he defended it a few times. He was a worthy title holder. And crossing paths again? I hope so; I’d love to fight him again. The top tier of Bellator there’s only a few fighters in there so I’m sure we’re gonna meet each other again.”
Such an encounter is likely in the somewhat distant future, however, as McGeary has more pressing concerns at hand. Tito Ortiz was in attendance for McGeary’s coronation at Bellator 134, and the former UFC titlist has since lobbied hard on social media for a shot at the Englishman’s belt.
That’s just fine by McGeary.
“As for my next opponent I don’t know who I’ve got, but obviously Tito’s a legend in the sport. I’ve seen a few of the things that have been coming up on Twitter and things like that,” McGeary said. “He’s a legend. He’s been in the sport for a long time, but I don’t know how much longer he’s thinking of sticking around for. If he fights me, then certainly for not much longer, that’s for sure.”
A few months back, Ortiz told MMAFighting.com that he would like to retire from MMA as a champion after two more fights. One would be taking the belt from McGeary; the second would be a successful title defense.
Meanwhile, McGeary sees Ortiz as the type of signature win his MMA ledger lacks thus far. Newton might be more accomplished now, but he is only known to devoted followers of the sport. Ortiz is another matter entirely.
“He’s an ambassador. He’s in the Hall of Fame. To actually beat somebody like that is quite notable,” McGeary said. “It’s a good name to have on your resume.”
Even if that bout does not come to fruition, McGeary plans on making a name for himself in Bellator for a long time. He recently signed a multi-fight contract with the Scott Coker-led promotion, saying “it just felt right” to stay put. Bellator is doing its part as well: The recent signing of UFC veteran Phil Davis was a significant addition to the light heavyweight roster.
“Oh, man. I was excited when I heard that,” McGeary said. “Davis is a great wrestler, great athlete. Been in the UFC. Now he’s ranked No. 6. I beat him, that’s gonna catapult me above him.”
Whether it’s Ortiz, Davis, Newton or someone that’s next, Newton has designs on remaining entrenched atop the division and hopes to defend his belt for as long -- if not longer -- than Jon Jones held on to 205-pound gold in the UFC.
“Bellator signing all these [guys] is just gonna do everything good for me,” McGeary said. “Bring them on, one by one.”