Bellator Fighting Championships will hold a special media conference call today (Jan. 11, 2012) in advance of the promotion's debut on Spike TV, which is expected to begin next week (Jan. 17).
Chandler is the current Bellator Lightweight Champion. He dethroned the now embroiled Eddie Alvarez in the best fight in Bellator history back in 2011, but only competed once last year, destroying Akhiro Ghono in a non-title bout last May. His challenger, Rick Hawn is a former 2004 US Judo Olympian and he won the Bellator season six lightweight tournament, knocking out two of his opponents and outlasting Brent Weedman in the finals to earn his shot.
Pat Curran is the current Bellator featherweight champion. He dethroned Joe Warren last year with one of the most vicious knockouts of 2012, but was unable to defend his title after breaking his orbital just days away from his scheduled bout against Patricio Freire. Now, after finally recovering, the patient Brazilian "Pitbull" will get his long overdue shot at the belt. .
Brian Hemminger here. The conference call is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. ET.
1:05 p.m. ET - We're officially getting started.
Bjorn Rebney: Curran vs Pitbull is a fight I've been waiting to see for a year, two of the best featherweights in the world. We're closing out the show with the lightweight title and it's been highlight finish after highlight finish for these guys. It's truly a world class pair of title fights.
Bjorn Rebney: Hawn vs Chandler is a fight that brings power. What can you say that hasn't already been said about Michael Chandler? The Ghono fight people forget about because it happened so quickly, it was a demolition performance. We put the brakes on things because in a perfect world scenario, I wanted it to main event our first show on the Spike network. It's two guys at the top of the game at 155.
Michael Chandler: You have to stay grounded, realize that what I've accomplished so far is nothing compared to what I want to accomplish. Being young in the sport, I try to stay humble and hungry and healthy, ready to get better and continue to exceed my own expectations and prove I've got a ton of potential that I've already shown so far. Just continue to work hard and don't get complacent because that's when bad things happen.
Michael Chandler: One of the best things about this fight is the opportunity to fight a guy who's proved himself in the MMA world. It's an honor to fight a guy an awesome opponent who's been in the Olympics. I don't focus on how I want to get the finish or how I'd like to get the finish. If it comes, it comes, if not,. you'll see a five round war. Don't blink.
Michael Chandler: My goal right now is to be the best lightweight in the world.
Rick Hawn: There's always something to learn from a win and a loss. It was mostly a stand-up battle for three rounds. That was a year and a half ago if not more and I've definitely improved a lot in my game since then. You never want to leave it in the hands of the judges and my new weight class has played a part in that since dropping down. You don't want to make mistakes.
Rick Hawn: We're both good grapplers and good strikers. It could go anywhere. It could be a five round brawl or it could be quicker. It has potential to live up to the Alvarez-Chandler fight. Whatever happens, happens.
Bjorn Rebney: Yes, we're looking at Will Brooks from Dream, but we're focusing on the fighters from this call right now.
Michael Chandler: I think it's great for the promotion and the fans and the fighters, especially the champions. Obviously, it's somewhat of a norm in mixed martial arts, pretty much every other organization puts matches together when they want and Bellator has taken the politics out of mxied martial arts. You've got 8 guys in a tournament and whoever wins gets the shot. The rematch clause allows the champions to potentially get more busy so I have no problem with that.
Pat Curran: It's great. Especially for a champion if you do lose, you have the chance to take a second fight and redeem yourself. Coming out of two tournaments, I don't want to have to go through a tournament again.
Patricio Pitbull: It's good that if you lose you could get a fight again, but I'm training to get the finish in the first round.
Rick Hawn: It's a new exciting rule that will be implement. Hopefully I get out with a win and don't have to deal with it.
Bjorn Rebney: The bookings have been really solid to date. We haven't booked Nevada yet. We've talked about doing some 2013 events and Nevada is not yet on the books. I'm thrilled for an opportunity to go there but we haven't yet found the right fit.
Bjorn Rebney: The championship rematch clause will be a case-by-case basis. If they're an amazing fight and both guys emerge without injuries, you can look at the docket and dates but it would be hard to lynchpin it in, doing it quickly or anything.
Rick Hawn: I started a year and a half ago at Tristar and the training up here is incredible. There's great training in Boston where I live but up here it's world class guys, top 10 guys. It was the right decision for me to make and obviously having Firas Zahabi in my corner has made a world of a difference.
Bjorn Rebney: When you've got a partner like Spike, it opens up a lot of doors. We've done a solid job the last few years with partners but the Spike alliance from a venue perspective has opened up door after door after door. It's opened up opportunities at bigger venues and areas.
Pat Curran: I got a bigger head piece for this fight in training. My partners know I was training for a title fight against Pitbull and I came out of this camp with no significant injuries.
Patricio Pitbull: I have been dreaming of being a champion since I was a child. I will bring that belt to Brazil.
Rick Hawn: Being able to train with Georges St. Pierre and see the level he's at is inspiring. It makes me work harder and train better. Whatever advice he gives me, I try to take it to heart and reproduce it in training. There's a ton of guys here that have taken me under their wing.
Patricio Pitbull: I can pay my bills and I have money for my family now that I am a fighter. My family always gave me support but I couldn't live with the money I was making fighting in Brazil. When I signed with Bellator, it was a benefit to the people close to me.
Patricio Pitbull: It really surprises me to go to a city I've never been to and the taxi guy knows who I am and they saw me on TV and stuff like that.
Patricio Pitbull: Pat doesn't throw many punches but when he does, he throws them to finish the fight.
Pat Curran: He's an explosive fighter. When he sees an opening he goes for it but you saw that in the Joe Warren fight where he blew his load and gassed out. You've really got to watch out for his power.
Michael Chandler: I don't care about the Eddie Alvarez situation. I'm focused on Rick.
Rick Hawn: All the other stuff is for Bjorn and Eddie to deal with.
Pat Curran: I'm flattered. I'm excited to be the first fight on the new Spike deal and I'm looking to start off the year right and have some fireworks. I want Bjorn to know he made the right decision.
Pat Curran: When I first started I was a wrestler looking to grind you down. Then I started looking for submissions but I didn't want to be that type of fighter and I started getting better with my hands and growing confidence to throw my hands more. I love striking, I love everything about it and learning new moves and techniques. I'm really excited to show my skills on January 12th
Pat Curran: I hear about ring rust but I don't think that will affect me. I was developing as a fighter. If anything, more time off has helped me prepare for Pitbull so I don't feel like there will any ring rust at all.
Patricio Pitbull: Actually, the only time I was not training was when I had my hand immobilized. Really, I've been training ever since, fighting guys that are active and doing well in sparring. I'm very well prepared and I feel it's going to be a very good fight and I feel it'll be the best fight of my life.
Patricio Pitbull: I do all my training depending on my opponents style. I do everything for this fight and my opponent is competent in all areas. I won't be surprised if the fight takes place everywhere.
Michael Chandler: I don't feel an obligation just because it's on Spike. We should feel an obligation whether you're the first fight of the night or the main event of a Bellator show to put on a great fight, make an exciting fight and be ready for a finish at all times. I've had a burning desire to always put on an exciting fight ever since my first fight, just as much as I do now.
Rick Hawn: I'm excited to be part of the main event on Spike. Whether it's five rounds or one round, it's going to be really exciting. I don't try to make a fight exciting or a fight of the year, but it can happen. Wherever the fight goes, it'll be great for Bellator and the fans.
Michael Chandler: Obviously, as a young, healthy fighter, I'd like to be fighting 3-4 times a year. At the end of the day, if I sit at home and worry about that, it'll set me back. I made the move down to Alliance, did PR work and tried to get my name out there as much as possible. I feel like I've grown so much as a fighter and gotten a ton better. As long as I put on a great show, the momentum will be there.
Michael Chandler: Alvarez is in the news because he deserves to be in the news. He puts on exciting fights. At the same time, I'm not worried about that situation. Any aspect of the Alvarez Bellator situation, I've kept my focus on me and my career. Worrying about all that stuff will do nothing but set you backwards. It's a great opportunity to go out in front of a ton of eyeballs and perform at a high level.
Bjorn Rebney: It'll be in HD in 100 million homes. The difference between SD and HD is night and day. It's a totally different looking broadcast. The format remains the same except we went to a complete bracket. It's going to be a great looking show to watch.
Pat Curran: Every fighter that goes through the tournament, all you want to do is win it and become the champion. I didn't do it the first time but it was a dream come true. The hunger and drive are still there. I want to be one of the best fighters in the world and that's all I can really ask for. My drive is to keep performing, keep growing as a fighter and keep amazing people.