Both Konrad and Grove impressed in their paths to the finals (Photos courtesy of Bellator).
Cole Konrad to Fight Neil Grove in Heavyweight Tournament Finals
This Thursday evening at the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Bellator will be crowing the first heavyweight champion in the history of the promotion. Earning their way into the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament Finals will be two-time NCAA Division I Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Cole Konrad (6-0) and Neil Grove (10-2-1), after both fighters battled their way through the Season 3 Tournament.
“I think Neil is going to try to start fast like he always does, and he'll probably be looking to finish the fight early,” Konrad remarked. “I think that will be his only strategy. I just don't see that happening for him. Any of his fights that have gone more than a couple of minutes, he's been nothing shy of exhausted. So if I get him into the third and fourth rounds, he's going to be in for a really long fight.”
In a display of respect for his opponent, Grove said he anticipates a great fight from Konrad, who is a training partner of UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.
“Cole is a good wrestler with an amazing college wrestling pedigree,” Grove stated. “I hope he brings his upmost best as I'm doing the same when it comes to my striking ability. I'm hitting and kicking much harder right now than ever before. I have also spent more time with my wrestling coaches for this fight with Cole.”
This will be the first championship match for each competitor, with two extra rounds likely coming into play for the first time in either one’s career.
“It favors me,” Konrad said of the extra 10 minutes. “Like I said before, any time Neil has gone longer than two minutes, he can barely keep his hands up high enough to throw a punch. I'm used to going the distance. Granted, I haven't gone to a fourth or fifth round in my career, but third, fourth, fifth, it makes no difference. If you know how to compete when you're tired, you know what you have to do.”
Grove was quick to rebut the statements of Konrad.
“It definitely favors me, of course,” he commented. “It would mean that he was not able to finish the fight on the canvas. Once he realizes that he's not going to be able to win the fight by taking me down, he will have no choice but to stand and trade punches with me.”
The main card of Bellator 32 will kick off at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Network, and the inaugural Bellator Bantamweight Championship will also be decided on Thursday. Facing off in the tournament finals of that weight class will be Zach Makovsky (11-2) and Ed West (15-4).