If you don’t know the name Costello van Steenis yet, he hopes to change that with his debut in Bellator MMA on Friday night in Connecticut.
With an 8-1 record, van Steenis has put together an admirable resume during his mixed martial arts career while learning under the tutelage of veteran middleweight Gegard Mousasi, who has acted as a coach, a friend and as a mentor to him ever since they first met several years ago.
Van Steenis was born in the Netherlands but then moved to Spain when he was just two-years old and after launching a successful mixed martial arts career, it was actually his coach at the time who encouragement to return home if he was serious about making fighting his future.
As it turns out, that move led van Steenis to Mousasi, who just so happened to be training at the same gym.
“I was 18 years old when I got introduced to MMA and I didn’t even know what MMA was at that point,” van Steenis told MMAWeekly. “A friend of my dad owned an MMA gym, he asked me if I wanted to be one of the strongest fighters around that place so I said sure. I started training and after six months he asked me if I wanted to do one night tournament, two fights in one night. I won both of those fights and he said you’re quite good so let’s go for the next one. I won that one as well and then he said you can do this professionally but you should go to a different team because if you stay here in Spain, you’re not going to get very much attention because MMA isn’t very big in Spain.
“So I went back to the Netherlands and I was lucky to get into the team where I’m at now, [and] my coach was working with Gegard Mousasi and he brought me to him and I’ve been training with him ever since.”
While Mousasi has quietly been putting together some of the most impressive wins of his career over the past couple of years while working his way up the ranks in the UFC, van Steenis has been doing the same as a top prospect in Europe.
When Mousasi left the UFC to sign a new multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA earlier this year, he mentioned to the promotion that he had a fighter under his wing who would fit perfectly in the organization. That’s all it took for van Steenis to get his opportunity to make his debut alongside Mousasi at Bellator 185 on Friday night.
“Gegard has been a role model to me,” van Steenis said. “He’s everything I could wish for. He’s a legend and I’m blessed to be training with him. Now I’m fighting on the same card that he’s fighting and I get to train with him in every exact situation that he does.
“Gegard is definitely the strongest middleweight that I’ve ever sparred against. I’m happy that I can push Gegard to his limits as well because that’s a dream come true. What else can you wish for?”
For Mousasi’s part, he benefits a lot from having van Steenis in the gym as well because they push each other in every sparring session during each training camp where they’ve worked together over the years.
As he prepares for his own Bellator debut, Mousasi raves about van Steenis as a training partner and as the best person possible to get him ready for the fights in his own career as well.
“Costello is tough. He comes to fight,” Mousasi told MMAWeekly. “I think sparring with him is a tougher time than I will have in my fight [with Alexander Shlemenko]. He always comes to fight and it’s a good time to make his debut.”
Obviously, van Steenis knows that an appearance on the Bellator prelims is just a start for where he wants to be in his career, but this is just the beginning. He promises that the fans who tune into watch his fight won’t be disappointed and his impact as a top prospect on the Bellator roster will be felt immediately.
“I will definitely finish this fight. I’ll knock him out or submit it, but it won’t go to decision. I don’t like fighting to decisions. America will definitely see a good fight,” van Steenis said.
“My goal is to be the main card next year. I’m going to go for it. By next year, I’ll be in a big fight card.”