Posts Tagged ‘Bellator’

Saturday’s ‘Fight Master’ finale bout postponed

Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font
Joe Riggs suffered an eye injury in training recently. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Joe Riggs suffered an eye injury in training recently. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Bellator MMA: Fight Master finale bout between Joe Riggs and Mike Bronzoulis, scheduled to take place on the promotion’s season-nine kickoff event this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, Spike TV) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., has been put on hold.

Riggs, the most experienced contestant among the 32 fighters who competed on the debuting reality series for a slot in an upcoming welterweight tournament and a $100,000 prize, suffered a partial orbital bone fracture and retina detachment injury in training three weeks ago.

“My sparring partner threw a high kick and I blocked it, but his toe went through my head gear,” said the 30-year-old Riggs on Friday. “I was in horrible pain and they had to pry my eye open to see the damage.”

Riggs underwent a four-hour surgery for the injury that night, he said, and spent four days recovering in an Arizona hospital. Riggs said the surgery was successful and his physician has already cleared him to train again.

The bout will be rescheduled as soon as Riggs has recovered, wrote Anthony Mazzuca, Bellator’s Director of Public Relations, in an email to SI.com. Mazzuca added that Bellator hopes to reschedule the bout before season nine comes to its close in December.

“I can be ready [to fight] in October or [on] Nov. 2, if they need me,” said Riggs. Bellator will promote its first-ever, pay-per-view event on Nov. 2 at the Long Beach Arena in Southern California. Former UFC superstars Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will meet in the light heavyweight headliner, while three title bouts, including an anticipated rematch between lightweight champion Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, round out the main card.

Riggs, a recovering drug addict who fought for the UFC from 2004 to 2006, defeated Rob Mills, Eric Scallan, Evan Cutts, and Cole William to earn his place in the Fight Master finale. Greg Jackson coached Riggs (39-14, 1 NC) during the series, which shot for six weeks outside New Orleans. Riggs trains at The MMA Lab in Glendale, Ariz., with former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, among other notables.

The run to the finals by Bronzoulis (15-5-1) included victories over Gareth Joseph, Jason Norwood, Chris Lozano and Eric Bradley. The 34-year-old Houston native, who was coached by UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture on the show, trains at the Paradigm Training Center and the Main Street Boxing Gym.

Bellator MMA begins its ninth season on Saturday with a middleweight championship bout between Alexander Shlemenko (47-7) and Brett Cooper (19-8). Fight Master coach and former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren (8-3) will debut at bantamweight against Nick Kirk (9-2) in a semifinal tournament fight. The event will also feature the opening round of this season’s middleweight tournament. Bellator’s live events will then move to Friday nights (9-11 p.m. ET) for its fall run.

Update: Riggs has tweeted a photo of what his eye looked like the night of his injury

–Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Sep 03, 2013
  • ‘King Mo’ Lawal is the one doing the crowning this time in Bellator

    Decrease fontDecrease font
    Enlarge fontEnlarge font
    Muhammed Lawal knocked Seth Petruzelli out cold in just 1:35 in the main event of Bellator 96.  (Jim Rinaldi/Icon SMI )

    Muhammed Lawal knocked Seth Petruzelli out cold in just 1:35 in the main event of Bellator 96. (Jim Rinaldi/Icon SMI )

    Another Muhammed Lawal fight. Another one-punch knockout.

    This time, though, “King Mo” was awake to enjoy it.

    Lawal, the prized Bellator signee who shockingly had been back-fisted into slumber in February, was the one doing the crowning Wednesday night in the main event of Bellator 96 in Thackerville, Okla. He needed just 1:35 to knock Seth Petruzelli out cold with a big right hand and earn his spot in the final of the promotion’s four-man Summer Series light heavyweight tournament, which kicked off under a bigger spotlight than usual with the UFC on hiatus for three weeks.

    Just as he’d been crumbled by Emanuel Newton four months ago with a maneuver often attempted but seldom pulled off to such effect — a spinning back fist — Lawal (10-2, 1 NC) scored a rare knockout of a fighter defending from his back against a standing opponent. It came after Petruzelli (14-8), a former UFC fighter best known as the man who burst the bubble of Kimbo Slice hype back in 2008, landed a few kicks early but tried one too many. Lawal, a former NCAA wrestling national champion, timed a kick, caught it, and powered his way to a takedown. He tried a few strikes from full guard, then pulled back and stood up, and in one motion he pushed aside Petruzelli’s extended legs and pounced on him with a nasty right hand that ended it.

    That “King Mo” advanced didn’t come as a surprise. That the other slot in the final was not filled by Renato “Babalu” Sobral might have … until you saw how slow and listless the Brazilian veteran was in a third-round TKO loss to Jacob Noe. Sobral was beaten to the punch throughout and was unable to get the bigger, stronger, fresher Noe to the mat in order to bring his black-belt jiu-jitsu into play.

    The one thing “Babalu” (37-11) did quickly: He retired. Within minutes after leaving the cage, the 37-year-old announced that he was ending a professional MMA career that began in 1997 and included two stints in the UFC and a Strikeforce championship.

    So it will be Noe (12-2, 1 NC), a 32-year-old who is 3-1 in Bellator, against Lawal on July 31 in Albuquerque for the right to try to end the 10-fight unbeaten streak of champion Attila Vegh. That Bellator 97 card also will feature the heavyweight tournament final, set up by Wednesday night’s first-round KO wins by four-time sambo world champion Vitaly Minakov (over Ron Sparks in 32 seconds) and Ryan Martinez (over Richard Hale in 2:19).

    Neither of those fights will be the main event or even co-main. Those slots will be taken by a couple of championship fights, as Ben Askren will put his welterweight belt on the line against Season 7 tournament winner Andrey Koreshkov and Michael Chandler will defend his lightweight title against Season 8 winner David Rickels. This promises to be the biggest event in Bellator history.

    –Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Jun 20, 2013
  • Bellator moving to Fridays this fall

    Decrease fontDecrease font
    Enlarge fontEnlarge font
    Bellator's Pat Curran will have a new fighting home on Fridays this fall. (Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images)

    Bellator’s Pat Curran will have a new fighting home on Fridays this fall. (Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES – To avoid the NFL crush, Bellator MMA will move from Thursday to Friday nights this fall, Spike TV president Kevin Kay exclusively told SI.com during a screening this week for Fight Master, its original MMA reality series debuting on June 19. 

    Following a rare Saturday night launch on Sept. 7 –- which will also double as Fight Master’s live finale — Bellator’s ninth season will settle into the 9-11 p.m. ET slot on Sept. 13.

    Thursday nights were a fruitful home for Bellator’s eighth season of tournament-style events, which concluded in early April. They averaged 862,000 viewers over 11 events on Spike (available in 100 million homes) — by far, the promotion’s most-watched season to date. Bellator previously aired on Friday nights on MTV2, another Viacom cable property in 80 million homes without HD capability, where it averaged approximately 155,000 and 162,000 viewers for its sixth and seventh seasons.

    Despite the California-based promotion’s tangible growth this past season, Kay said the NFL’s return this fall (with the NFL Network securing a fair share of premium games on Thursday nights) precipitated an obligatory move for Bellator, which Viacom purchased a majority stake of in 2011.

    Through a process of elimination, Kay landed on the new night, and said Bellator’s previous Friday run on MTV2, which doesn’t have the visibility of Spike, isn’t an indicator of the promotion’s potential this fall.

    TNA Impact Wrestling, which previously served as Bellator’s lead-in, has already been moved back into Thursday’s 9 p.m. slot, where Kay said pro wrestling’s dedicated audience will hold up better against sport’s greatest juggernaut. Kay said the strength of WWE’s Monday Night Raw and Spike’s Tuesday night original programming eliminated an early-week slot for Bellator, which left Wednesdays or Fridays.

    Fox Sports 1, the rebranded Speed channel, announced in May that it would feature UFC programming on Wednesdays.

    “I don’t want to see Bellator going head to head with the UFC,” said Kay. “I don’t think that makes any sense for fans. No matter who would win in that scenario, you don’t want to not give the fans the choice to watch both.”

    The Ultimate Fighter reality series, which flipped between live and taped fights during its three seasons on FX, earned some of its lowest ratings on Fridays, yet  Kay is optimistic that Bellator will grow a following on the new night, in the vein of boxing’s Friday Night Fights on ESPN.

    The Ultimate Fighter on Fridays was doing over a million viewers a week. I’ll take that, and with live fights, I think we’ll do even better,” said Kay. “There’s a lot of young men at home across [the] 18-49 [age demographic]. Gold Rush on Discovery  does 4 million viewers on Friday nights. [The viewers] are there. You just have to give them the right thing and I think live fights on Friday, without competition, is going to be the best place for Bellator.”

    – Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Jun 11, 2013
  • Jessica Penne criticizes Bellator for its handling of female fighters

    Decrease fontDecrease font
    Enlarge fontEnlarge font

    Bellator, the Viacom-backed MMA promotion, has taken its share of hits recently when it comes to the handling of its female fighters.

    Fighter Zoila Gurgel told MMAjunkie’s Ben Fowlkes about how she felt better respected by the all-female promotion, Invicta, compared to her previous promoter, Bellator. MMA fans on the interwebs repeatedly questioned why Bellator shoved top-ranked, 115-pound fighter Jessica Aguilar to an online timeslot rather than featuring her bout on its SpikeTV portion of the broadcast.

    Now, Invicta atomweight titleholder Jessica Penne adds her voice to the chorus of criticisms against the company.

    Penne tells SI.com that in her May 2009 bout with Tammie Schneider, she broke her hand and struggled to get Bellator to cover her injury.

    “I couldn’t get them to take care of my hand,” she says. “I just couldn’t get ahold of anybody … Everyone is sending me from one place to another. My hand is still messed up from it because it didn’t get proper treatment.”

    The bones have now healed but for Penne, the wound is still open.

    “I really do not like them,” Penne says, referring to Bellator.

    A Bellator official told SI.com that while he did not have information to speak to Penne’s case specifically, the promotion has a plan in place to deal with fighter injuries and a team of employees dedicated to handling medical claims.

    Penne says her experience with Invicta, which features her in its main event tonight against challenger Michelle Waterson, has been a positive one.

    “It’s great to be treated like a professional for the first time,” she says.

    – Melissa Segura


  • Published On Apr 05, 2013
  • Pat Curran retains featherweight belt as Bellator MMA takes center stage

    Decrease fontDecrease font
    Enlarge fontEnlarge font
    Pat Curran was less than impressed with his early victory, saying that was his plan.

    Pat Curran was less than impressed with his early victory, saying that was his plan. (Henry S Dziekan III/Getty Images)

    Timing is everything. Well, almost everything. Good fortune also factors into success.

    Bellator MMA had both of those things on its side Thursday night in Atlantic City.

    Bjorn Rebney & Co. put together perhaps the best fight card in the promotion’s history, headlined by a featherweight title bout, with two tournament finals billed right below. And the card got an added boost when the UFC lost its Saturday main event, allowing Bellator 95 to step out of the shadow of its behemoth rival and become the mixed martial arts event of the week.

    The only thing left for Bellator to do was deliver. And its fighters did just that right from the top.

    Pat Curran, who at No. 3 among featherweights in the SI.com MMA rankings is by far the highest-ranked non-UFC fighter, defended his belt for the second time with remarkable efficiency, choking Shahbulat Shamhalaev unconscious 2:38 into Round 1. What made it efficient? Before his lightning-quick takedown around 10 seconds from the finish transitioned into an arm-in guillotine that prompted referee Keith Peterson to jump in when the challenger went limp, Curran had not landed a single punch. He was credited with but one strike in the fight, a kick to the body.

    “It feels great, man,” Curran (19-4) said after his sixth straight victory. “I didn’t get hit once in the face. I wanted to get in, get out, get back to the gym, rest up, and on to the next one.”

    That’s efficiency for you.

    The fight actually threatened to kill the momentum that the main card had built, with a pair of knockouts and a rock ’em, sock ’em bout that went to decision. Why? While both Curran and Shamhalaev have shown spectacular flashes in recent fights, they’re both counterpunchers. What that stylistic matchup produced was mostly a circle dance, with each man waiting for the other to initiate. The challenger got off a few shots — he was credited with landing six strikes — but did not find the opportunity to show off the explosiveness he’d used to knock out his last five opponents. For Shamhalaev (12-2-1), the loss ended a run of 11 straight bouts without a defeat.

    Earlier in the evening, another Russian featherweight fared better. Frodo Khasbulaev took a tight but unanimous decision from Mike Richman to capture the Season 8 tournament and earn a shot at Curran. He might have to wait a while, though, as Season 6 champ Daniel Strauss still hasn’t had the shot he earned. He was the champ’s original opponent for Thursday night, but a training injury put him on the shelf, replaced by Season 7 winner Shamhalaev. The tourneys come fast and furious in Bellator.

    So do the punches of Doug Marshall. He’s the other tournament winner, as his brutal first-round knockout of Brett Cooper propelled him to a shot at middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. That should be an explosive  one, as Marshall is a wildman and the champ is a finisher as well, with five KOs during his 10-fight win streak.

    It’s a risky proposition, though, thrusting Marshall into the spotlight, and not because of the Iron Cross tattoo on his chest. That symbol was used by the Nazis, yes, but it’s also been seen on surfer dudes, so we’ll draw no conclusion about “The Rhino” based upon his ink. However, his classlessness in victory — standing over a prone Cooper smugly, then saying he was trying to knock the guy’s beard off — was bush league. And Bellator surely would prefer to be seen as a major-league player in the sport. But a tournament is a tournament, and you let the chips fall where they may. Even if they might look like roadblocks.

    –Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Apr 05, 2013
  • Alvarez wanted stake in Bellator

    Decrease fontDecrease font
    Enlarge fontEnlarge font

    Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez got the news that Viacom had purchased a majority share of the promotion he fights for along with everyone else this week.

    Alvarez (22-2) said he figured it would have been the UFC, not the world’s fourth-largest media conglomerate, that would have recognized the quality of the Bellator product and eventually buy it.

    “Originally, when the UFC purchased Strikeforce (last March), I got very on edge,” said Alvarez, whom I interviewed Thursday on CyberstationUSA.com’s Last Call Internet radio show. “I called (Bellator owner) Bjorn Rebney to ask him if there was any possible way that I could buy stake in Bellator. The way (the UFC) was buying up promotions like that, I didn’t want them to come in on Bellator without me being able to capitalize on it.”

    Rebney had been open to the idea of his star fighter purchasing stake in the company, said Alvarez, but followup discussions never happened.

    However, once Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, announced that it had signed a seven-year exclusive broadcast deal with the Fox Broadcasting Network across its multiple TV platforms in September, Alvarez said it was a foregone conclusion that Bellator would have filled the void left by the UFC on Viacom’s Spike TV. Bellator currently airs on MTV2, another Viacom property, while Spike.com has recently begun airing Bellator’s preliminary bouts.

    The plan is for Bellator to make its debut on Spike TV in 2013, once the cable network’s exclusive contract to air UFC footage only in 2012 expires.

    Read More…


  • Published On Oct 28, 2011


  •