CHICAGO, Ill. – The lightweight division of Bellator Fighting Championships’ upcoming Season 2 tournament continued to take shape today with the addition of Carey Vanier, a former All-American wrestler and student of prominent MMA coach Greg Jackson.
Vanier boasts a solid overall professional record of 7-2 (all but one of his wins have come via TKO or submission), but his career has taken on an entirely new trajectory since he began training at Jackson’s Submission Fighting school in Albuquerque, N.M.
“That’s when it all started to come together for me,” Vanier said. “To work with a world-renowned trainer like Greg and to train alongside guys like Keith Jardine and Donald Cerone, it just elevates your game. Over the past few months, I’ve started to realize that I’m getting pretty close to their level, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the Bellator tournament. Now I have my sights set on shocking the world and taking home that belt.”
Vanier is the third confirmed competitor in Bellator’s Season 2 155 lbs. tournament, along with 5-0 Mike Ricci (a training partner to UFC champion Georges Saint-Pierre) and 13-5 former Olympic judoka Ferrid Kheder. Bellator will also conduct tournaments at 145, 170 and 185 lbs. with the winners of this season’s tournaments being declared No. 1 contenders to Bellator’s current roster of champions. Each of Bellator’s 24 events during Seasons 2 and 3 will be televised on FOX Sports Net, NBC and Telemundo. Season 2 begins April 8th.
“We’ve been very impressed by Carey’s skills and the work-ethic that he brings to his training,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “He’s come up alongside some of the best fighters in the sport and has the drive and the hunger to shock some people in our 155 tournament.”
Vanier, now 28, was born and raised in Minnesota, where he was a high school wrestling star. During his senior year, he finished sixth at the state finals before moving on to wrestle at Ridgewater College where he was eventually named an All-American.
After graduating, though, he made the decision to put his fighting dreams on the back burner in order to support his young son, Carey Jr. He took a job at the local Best Buy and worked his way up the ranks until he was named store manager.
Vanier never lost his passion for the fight game, though, and continued to train part time until a Best Buy supervisor asked him if he was truly happy with his full-time job.
“I told her that I liked my job but that I didn’t really love it … I love being a competitor,” he said.
Accordingly, he began to scale back his hours at the store and, eventually, in late 2007, handed in his resignation.
“I sold my house, I moved back in with my mom and just committed full-time to fighting,” he said. “I said to myself, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all in.”
He began training in boxing, Muay-Thai and Jiu-Jitsu and, this past November, was invited to train with Donald “Cowboy” Cerone at Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, where he has stayed ever since.
“I’ve come along way,” he said. “I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to show the world what I can do.”