Five months ago, Aaron Chalmers didn’t have any aspirations of being a champion.
Then again, when he started his MMA journey he probably didn’t expect to end up with one of the world’s largest fight promotions so soon either.
The Geordie Shore star makes his Bellator debut this Friday at Bellator 200 at The SSE Arena, Wembley in London, where he meets Ash Griffiths in a 163-pound catchweight bout. Previously, Chalmers competed for the U.K.’s BAMMA promotion, where he recorded three consecutive first-round knockouts to begin his pro fighting career.
Chalmers appeared on The MMA Hour last December and told Ariel Helwani that he didn’t see himself ever becoming a world champion, and that his involvement in MMA was primarily for the love of the sport and the prospect of high-profile fights.
But now that he’s done with reality television, and having tasted victory inside the cage, Chalmers is opening his eyes to the possibilities of becoming a contender in Bellator.
“As far as I’m concerned now, MMA is my career. TV’s not,” Chalmers told MMA Fighting. “So I’m gonna literally go and push myself as far as I can possibly go, that’s it. The thing is, I love seeing myself progress in training, so the mindset now is get as many fights as I possibly can and go as far as I possibly can. Let’s just see where it takes us.”
Chalmers’s training was supposed to take him from England to the American Top Team camp over in Florida in preparation for his upcoming fight, but that trip was cut short by a family illness. The 30-year-old returned home to look after the situation, which meant he only had a moment to rub shoulders with the likes of Dustin Poirier, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
Which is not to say that Chalmers is lacking in quality training partners back in Birmingham. Along with UFC fighters Tom Breese and Leon Edwards, Chalmers made the move from Ultimate Training Centre to Team Renegade Jiu-Jitsu when their former camp moved to another city.
The door is open for him to return stateside though, something he plans to do especially if he can get on a major U.S. Bellator show.
“That was my first time, so it was what I call a ‘fly-and-visit’,” Chalmers said of his brief time in Florida. “But I’ve got my eye set on the big shows in America. Obviously, they don’t get much better than that. Fighting in your hometown is good, but there are some big, big shows and big cards and big arenas to fight in in America and I want my name on one of them cards and I’m going to do everything I can to get it there.”
With almost 2.5 million followers on Instagram, Chalmers has the kind of social media reach that most promotions would kill for, so it’s not inconceivable that Bellator could give him a prominent position in an American event. He’s already landed a spot on the main card in his first fight with the organization.
That said, it’s actually been a less stressful experience so far for Chalmers, who felt a lot of pressure in promoting his previous fights given his celebrity, something that hasn’t been an issue now that he’s in an entirely different realm of entertainment with its own established stars. At Bellator 200, he’s sharing the spotlight with Gegard Mousasi, Michael “Venom” Page, and Phil Davis.
“To be fair, compared to BAMMA, I’m hardly known at all,” said Chalmers. “I felt like on BAMMA all the promotion was put on my shoulders, like literally everything, whereas Bellator it’s been like taking two steps back. They might be like, ‘Can you post this picture of your fight, a picture of you in action?’ That’s it. I was quite surprised. I thought I’d be asked to do more promotion, but if anything, because they’re that big of a promotion it’s been more chill.”
Chalmers has also received support from his Geordie Shore castmates, several of whom have stepped up to spread the word of his move to MMA. Combined, Chalmers estimates that he and the other Geordies have over 15 million followers combined on Instagram and he’s grateful for them having his back even though he’s moved on from the program.
All that won’t help on Friday when he steps into the cage with Griffiths, by far the most experienced opponent he’ll have fought yet. Griffiths’s MMA record is unimpressive, but he’s also competed professionally as a K-1 kickboxer, and his cage time dwarfs that of Chalmers’s last three conquests, all of whom were making their pro debuts.
“I said after the Newcastle fight, I wouldn’t fight another [opponent making their] pro debut. It wasn’t getting us anywhere,” said Chalmers. “I wanted someone with a pro record and 10 fights is a lot of fights. He’s 4-6 and he’s went the distance a few times, I haven’t even went out the first round, so it will be quite interesting to see how his experience comes into play, come fight night. But like I said, I’ve prepared for everything, so we can only see.”