With an 11-1 record including three straight wins in Bellator, Costello van Steenis knows he’s inching closer and closer to his ultimate goal to become middleweight champion.
This weekend at Bellator in London, van Steenis faces Mike Shipman, who is coming in with 13 straight wins including decisive finishes in every single one of his victories.
The winner of the fight should be poised for a run at the championship over the next year, which is exactly why van Steenis was excited for this matchup.
“It’s a perfect matchup,” van Steenis said when speaking to MMAFighting. “This guy finishes fights. He’s finished all his fights I believe, won like 13 in a row. That’s perfect for me. I like to finish fights. So it’s going to be a fun fight to watch and a fun fight to fight.”
As much as Shipman stands in his way on Saturday, van Steenis has a bigger obstacle in his path before he can become Bellator champion.
The 26-year old Dutch contender also happens to be a protégé of reigning middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi, who is competing in the main event on the same night as he takes on submission specialist Rafael Lovato Jr.
Van Steenis credits Mousasi with shaping him into the mixed martial artist he is today, which is why he would never even consider pursuing a fight against his mentor.
Instead, van Steenis will gladly clear out every athlete standing between him and the title and then when Mousasi decides to either leave the division or retire from the sport, he’ll step in to challenge for the belt.
“I’m never going to fight Gegard,” van Steenis said. “Cause he’s the guy that helped me to be the fighter that I am today. It would be messed up to go into a fight with him. Because when you go into a fight, you’re actually willing to break someone in every way in the cage. That’s what I’ll never do to him.
“As soon as he leaves the middleweight division, I’ll be the one to take over.”
Because van Steenis is still so young in his career, he knows there will be plenty of time to reign as champion after Mousasi is done at middleweight.
Considering all the ways that the reigning Bellator champion has helped him get ready for moments just like these, van Steenis is more than happy to wait until he’s done to then go after the 185-pound belt.
“I’ve still got the same mission. My plan is to defeat this guy and the winner of this fight should definitely be in the top five of the middleweight division and then I’m just going to keep working to get to the top spot,” van Steenis said. “Until Gegard goes to light heavyweight or welterweight or he stops, whatever he plans on doing, and then I’ll be the next one in line fighting for the middleweight belt.”
For now, van Steenis can only worry about one thing and that’s stepping into Shipman’s backyard and handing him his first defeat since his professional debut back in 2013.
Competing in London will obviously be a big deal for Shipman but van Steenis didn’t shy away from taking this fight because he’s going to have plenty of support in the crowd as well come Saturday night.
“It’s his hometown, it’s his backyard, it doesn’t matter” van Steenis stated. “It’s like my neighbor, we’re coming here with family, friends, a lot of people from the Netherlands. It’s just an hour flight away to London so we’re going to come with a big army as well. It’s like fighting at home as well for me.
“I don’t feel like I’m the underdog over there. I might be the underdog but I’m not going to feel like it.”