Just days away from his heavyweight fight against Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 218, Linton Vassell still cannot quite believe how far he has come.
Vassell moved from Broughton to America three years ago to be closer to the Bellator epicentre. Training with Hard Knocks 365, Vassell gets to come home just twice a year. It is a far cry from when he first signed for Bellator, five years ago, when he was training in Bradwell Abbey.
In his first interview with the Citizen in 2014, Vassell said he was living his dream being a British champion. Five years later, he says the dream is living up to expectation, even if signing autographs is still something he has not gotten used to.
He said: "That sort of thing comes with the territory, but I don't think you ever really get used to it! It is great to feel the love and give the love back to the fans.
"It has been a great experience – it is one of the best feelings in the world! When I started fighting, I never dreamed of getting this far, so living the dream is living up to expectation! It is special."
For his fight against Moldavsky, Vassell has stepped up from light heavyweight to heavyweight. Unlike in previous bouts, the 35-year-old says he feels more prepared and better than ever, and boldly predicts a second round TKO.
He said: "I'm not looking past him, he is a tough boy, but I'm the better fighter and I really believe that,"
"I feel great, everything in the camp has been going really well. Stepping up a weight class means I can eat and drink what I want – I've just had a full breakfast, when before I'd have eggs. I'm hydrated, I haven't got to go on two mile runs late at night just to make weight. It gives me a bit more freedom to do more in the gym, and also frees up my mind because I'm not worrying about the weight, over-thinking everything."
Watch Linton Vassell in action at Bellator 218: Sanchez vs. Karakhanyan 2 live on Sky Sports Main Event from 1am GMT in the early hours of Saturday morning.