With Scott Coker’s support, Bellator 288 winner Daniel James ready to make late-career splash

With Scott Coker’s support, Bellator 288 winner Daniel James ready to make late-career splash

CHICAGO – What a journey for Daniel James.

James made his professional MMA debut with Bellator back in March 2014, beating Erick Correa by second-round TKO. So imagine his elation after winning his second promotional fight Friday night at Bellator 288, where he finished top-five heavyweight Tyrell Fortune with vicious ground-and-pound in front of hometown fans at Wintrust Arena after years of toiling on the regional scene and overseas.

“It was crazy. Tonight was so epic,” James said. “Everything went according to plan. …

“I don’t think it was an upset. I think it was just him having a real heavyweight, him having a beast in front of him. I used to think back in the day, ‘Was I ever tested?’ And I realized like, well, I watched (Fortune’s) fights, and I said, ‘I don’t think this guy’s been touched enough or been tested by a real animal.’ It was not arrogance, it was not cockiness, it was just confidence.”

It was also a surprise. Maybe not to James (14-6-1 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) and his supporters, but to everyone else – in particular Bellator president Scott Coker.

But in a good way.

“I was really surprised that the outcome was what it was,” Coker said. “I mean, Fortune is a guy that we spent a lot of time developing and building. But James, that’s a big man. When he starts punching, I would not want to be on the end of those big punches. When a guy weighs 280 pounds and cuts to 261, he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with. So I’m excited to see what happens with him. …

“We’ll definitely have him back and keep him going and see how he develops. Is he ready to fight the top, top guys yet? I’m not sure. But we’ll definitely get him in the mix to keep getting experience to get to that point where he could fight Moldavsky or Bader or somebody like that.”

Related

Why Vadim Nemkov values Bellator title defense, grand prix win over $1 million prize

Bellator 288 video: Daniel James blasts Tyrell Fortune, finishes with vicious ground-and-pound

James, who’s on a four-fight streak of wins by stoppage, said “Bellator’s always been the place” he wanted to wind up. At 40, it sounds like he’ll be given the opportunity to flourish this late in his career.

James turns 41 on Dec. 31, but he made it clear that he wants to fight “the youngest and toughest” heavyweights Bellator has to offer, because age doesn’t mean anything to him.

“I really don’t think that sh*t matters,” James said. “I train hard, I play hard, and I just go after it. You know what I’m saying? I motivate, I inspire, and I lead. Like, age ain’t nothing but a number. Age is what you make it.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 288.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie