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Johnny Bedford sets sights on next level

Johnny "Brutal" Bedford, fighting out of Fitness Fight Factory, is a mixed martial artist well known in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, not to mention the state. He's fought for multiple promotions in Texas, including King of Kombat in Austin, Urban Rumble in Houston, and of course Supreme Warrior Championship here in the Metroplex. He was on the card for the SWC's inaugural event and has been showcased by the promotion five more times since then. He is currently the SWC's featherweight champion.

Bedford has been selected to face Amarillo fighter Jared Lopez at Bellator 19 this Thursday at Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie.

Although the 27-year-old mixed martial artist grew up in the Midwest, he now calls North Texas his home. He's an instructor and part owner of Fitness Fight Factory in Colleyville.

Chas Skelly and Douglas Frey, two of his teammates from F3, are all also fighting at Bellator 19. With all three teammates focused on the same goal, Bedford is very happy with his fight preparation for Lopez.

"Training has been great." Bedford said. "I've had a good camp for this fight. I've been training two to three times a day. We've been training super hard out at our gym over the last three or four weeks now. I've got great workout partners in Chas and Doug. It was perfectly ideal that we were fighting on the same night, since we are all training hard at the same time. Generally you don't get that. Normally you're the only one fighting and the other two are out of shape. This time it was nice because we are all fighting together. We are all pushing each other hard every day."

In spite of growing up in the Midwest where wrestling is a very popular sport, Bedford won't be defined by his wrestling base. He feels he has more to offer as a mixed martial artist and plans to demonstrate his point against Lopez.

"If you research me, you'll definitely find out my credentials in wrestling," Bedford states. "I started wrestling at age of 4. I'm originally from Ohio, a big wrestling state. I wrestled in high school and then went on to wrestle Division I in college for a while at Cleveland State. I'm an All-American at freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. So if you researched me you'll find out that I'm a pretty well established wrestler, but if you watch me fight, I'm the definition of freestyle. I'm comfortable on my back with Jiu-Jitsu. I'm comfortable with my boxing and Thai boxing. And to be honest, I prefer to stand up. I usually go for takedowns out of the clinch. I'm not the guy that goes for the double leg five feet away from you. I'm going to try to strike with you, but if we get in the clinch then I'll try to impose my wrestling and beat you up a little bit on the ground. I'm looking to submit you. I'm looking to knockout you. I'm a freestyle fighter."

Despite the fact that his opponent comes from Amarillo, which many consider ground zero for Texas MMA, Bedford is convinced he knows what to expect from Lopez and is confident that he will have his hand raised at the end of the bout.

"I actually cornered Douglas [Frey] against him [Lopez]," Bedford said. "He's kind of a veteran, 10-8, something like that. He's fought good guys. He's fought bad guys. No real big wins for him. He's not a spectacular Jiu-Jitsu guy. He's not a spectacular stand-up guy. He's a well-rounded fighter ... I guess. I don't want to overlook him, but I'm very confident that I could get the victory by taking him down and getting the submission."

Although Bedford knows that his base set of skills can get him the victory, he realizes that the stakes are high in this fight. He's got to prove to the likes of Bellator and the WEC that he can compete at the national level, while also entertaining the crowd. Bedford feels that a strong finish is critical to his future.

"This is the biggest show I've fought on," Bedford says. "The main reason I'm really excited about this is because they are doing a 135 tournament in August. I think I can compete with any of the top guys in the world at 135. We were told there are a few slots open. All I can do now is perform and hopefully they see me. I want to put on a good show and show that I have a following [in the DFW area]. It will be a home fight for me. With Bellator watching, and a chance to get into the tournament in August on the line, I want to look as impressive as possible. We are going to try to keep it standing, and I'm going to try to get the knockout and look good doing it."

In a previous interview with ESPNDallas.com back in 2009, Bedford indicated that his ultimate goal would be to make it to the WEC at 135 pounds. With his objective now within range, the MMA prospect knows he still has work to do before he gets that call.

"We've been talking to them [WEC]," Bedford said. "I think what is holding me back now is that I went pro too early looking for a paycheck and got some stupid loses early in my career, although it helps me now that I'm undefeated at 135. Right now I'm trying to beat those guys that are 7-1, 9-0, guys with those kinds of records that are on the verge of getting their contract. Guys like me that are 23-8, where the eight losses are holding me back, I've got to beat those up-and-coming guys. I've got to fight them and get big wins to make it to the next level."