Bellator MMA is holding a virtual press conference TODAY (Tues., Feb. 9, 2021) at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT. The place and time were first made known to the mixed martial arts (MMA) media in a mass “save the date” email campaign, but the details have not been officially revealed ... yet.
As today’s press conference takes place, we’ll bring you live updates below as to what Bellator has in store for 2021. Is it announcing the full slate of shows for this fight season? Is the promotion switching to another platform in the Viacom/CBS umbrella? Has it signed any fighters recently released by UFC?
It could even be some combination of all of the above, or something none of us have even considered before. Watch the stream in the embedded player above and stay tuned right here at MMAmania.com for the latest news.
Mauro Ranallo informs us that Bellator MMA is moving to Showtime. He’s joined at the desk by Showtime’s President of Sports & Event Programming Stephen Espinoza and Bellator President Scott Coker. Coker is saying he’s really excited to return to Showtime, now with Bellator instead of Strikeforce of course, and Espinoza reminds us that they’re exclusive now to Showtime starting April 2nd with three straight weeks of Friday nights.
April 2nd will be Patricio Freire vs. Emmanuel Sanchez, with the winner advancing to face A.J. McKee in June. Coker also announces there will be a Light Heavyweight Grand Prix starting April 9th and that will continue April 16th. On May 7th there will be a Bantamweight title fight between Juan Archuleta and Sergio Pettis. Showtime is offering a free 30 day trial and then it will be $4.99 a month afterward for the next six months for new subscribers.
Espinoza: “What attracted us to Bellator at this particular time was the talent base. They’re as strong as any organization in this sport. We can bring the premium touch, our experience in combat sports, to the great team Bellator already has. We believe that we can cross pollinate the boxing and MMA audience in a way that benefits all of combat sports.”
Coker: “We’re going to launch with the three fights in April then we’re probably going to go twice a month the rest of the year. It’s going to be around that number moving forward.”
Coker: “Fridays is the home of Bellator on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET and 6 Pacific.”
Coker: “Traditionally we like to do one tournament a year, we’re kind of overlapping due to the COVID situation, but in the future it’s definitely an option. When we signed Rumble and Romero I said alright, we’ve got to do it (for Light Heavyweight). So we said okay we’re going to give the fans what they want to see, and we’re going to do it on Showtime.”
Coker: “We’re going to announce the tournament with Mauro in a couple of minutes, but it will be an eight man tournament.”
Mauro throws the broadcast to Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell of Morning Kombat. Thomas says it’s all full circle since Rich Chou was the matchmaker in Strikeforce, and Scott Coker was the President of Strikeforce, so it all makes sense with the same names in place. He admits that working for Showtime he’s biased of course but he believes they have the best combat sports programming, and Campbell says this Bellator roster is the hungriest and strongest, where the best of the best now have the best partner in Showtime.
Thomas throws to a video package for the Featherweight Grand Prix, and we come back to Mauro Ranallo introducing tournament finalist A.J. McKee. He’ll face the winner of champion Patricio Freire vs. Emmanuel Sanchez in a long-awaited rematch. Both of those men are introduced as well, with the “champ champ” Freire coming out last.
McKee: “Preference wise I’d prefer to fight Sanchez, and then go face Pitbull for the 155 pound title.”
Sanchez: “(It’s about) getting that win back and going on to the finals and getting that one back as well.”
Freire: “Everyone is tough here, everybody knows that, but my focus is Emmanuel Sanchez. Let’s do that first.”
Sanchez: “I do know my potential, and I know what he’s capable of, and I’m excited to go out there and show what I can do.”
Freire: “I already know I’m the best Featherweight on the planet, and (A.J.) is undefeated, but I’m going to prove that again.”
Ranallo throws it back to Morning Kombat for their analysis of the semi-finals and potential finals against McKee. They throw it back to Ranallo for more about the 205 lb. tournament.
Corey Anderson will be facing Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.
Ryan Bader will be facing Lyoto Machida on April 9th.
Anthony Johnson will be facing Yoel Romero.
Vadim Nemkov will be facing Phil Davis on April 16th.
Anderson says he’ll treat Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov like he’s the best in the world even if he has a name nobody has ever heard of before now. Davis says that being on the stage with this talent is amazing and the winner is truly the best Light Heavyweight in the world. Machida says he can’t predict how the rematch with Ryan Bader will go.
We’re now joined by Juan Archuleta. “Patrick (Mix) was a tough opponent, I knew in the later rounds his grappling would dwindle down, and I’d take advantage with the striking. You’re not chasing the dragon (as champion), now you should be able to perform from here on out. I think if he sticks to his game plan Patricio comes out on top (in the tournament) and we cross paths again at some point in the future.”
Sergio Pettis is here is well: “I don’t like to think too far ahead for what I’m going to do. He’s a tough guy and it’s a big platform but it means more because it’s for the title.”
The coverage now shifts over to the Bellator media conference call with the fighters and Bellator President Scott Coker, who will be first up on the call.
Coker: “We’re going to wait to see how (Bader) does on the 9th. If he wins and he’s going to continue on into the tournament, we might consider having an interim (Heavyweight) belt. We’re going to see how it goes and then we’ll decide what to do from there.”
Coker: “Mauro (Ranallo) is amazing and the knowledge he has, the coverage of PRIDE at 2 or 3 in the morning, and when I’d be there I’d see him live, his knowledge in this sport is unmatched. He’s done all the big fights and there are so many great fights he’s done it’s unbelievable the history he has in this space.”
Coker: “It started with Corey Anderson. I said this is the greatest Heavyweight division on the planet, and now it’s even greater than it was six months ago. Once we signed Yoel (Romero) we said this is the tournament. How can we not do it? Not only are we going to do it, we’re going to give the fans what they want to see. When the fight is there, you’ve got to do it. Somebody gets hurt, somebody can’t fight, things happen in this sport — so I said ‘Hey, let’s put them first.’ (Yoel vs. Rumble) is the fight people want to see.”
Coker: “(Kyoji) Horiguchi will fight for us representing Rizin and will fight sometime this year.”
Coker: “I was texting with (Dillon Danis) the other day and I’d like to see him get back into action in April or May. Don’t be surprised if you see him pop up.”
Coker: “Because the champion will fight in the tournament, the champion will put his belt on the line every time, so every fight in the tournament will be (scheduled for) five five minute rounds.”
Coker: “Gegard (Mousasi) was supposed to be here this week for the festivities and photo shoots. Unfortunately he had a weather issue in Amsterdam and he couldn’t fly here nor Denise (Kielholtz). In the future maybe he’ll fight the winner (of this tournament). If I had to bet on it I’d say he’d be fighting by June.”
Coker: “The crossover between the Featherweight and Light Heavyweight tournaments is only because of COVID. We should have been finished with Featherweight six weeks ago. The finals is going to be off the charts but we didn’t want to wait until that was over to start the next tournament. Next year we’ll start another tournament in another weight class.”
Coker: “If we can get real boxing fights and real MMA fights and cross pollinate them I think that’ll be a great day, because I think they have a related audience.”
Coker: “Those conversations (about Romero at 185) have already happened. If he wins he could drop to 185 and face Gegard. If he loses in the tournament, he could still face Gegard.”
Davis: “I honestly did (think Nemkov would be champ). I could see where one had strengths and one had weaknesses and play it out in my head, but I did not see it going down like that (with Bader), that was a complete surprise.”
Davis: “Winning the Nemkov fight is as far as I’ve gotten. Anything beyond that, cool. There’s another belt at the end of the tournament, cool. It’s the first belt that matters. As for Romero and Rumble, who’s going to land first? That’s a tough one.”
Davis: “It’s always good to get one back. That in and of itself makes it a special fight for me. The first fight (with Rumble) that’s where I stopped being as green and started being a little more of a veteran fighter. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in the cage with him. I’m interested to see how that goes.”
Davis: “I don’t have any superstitions, like ‘Oh I haven’t lost in Mohegan’ or anything like that. I only gain confidence by doing the hard work in the gym, improving on any blind spots I have, and looking for new ones.”
Yoel Romero: “Because my... I think I come for the UFC at 185, I wanted to take command and 185, and then you go up. In Bellator I’m coming in at 205 but I’m still thinking about 185 in Bellator. When I finish here I want to go down and take that belt too. That’s my plan.”
Romero: “I’m not thinking about weight. Now my weight is 210, 212. When I stay in UFC we running a little bit more because we need to go down. We still running but different. The day of the fight I think I stay in the approximately like 215, 218, that’s what I’m thinking.”
Romero: “I don’t need to have different coaches. I’m still with my coaches, but now we are not different in sparring because I moved to 205, no no no. We are different because I have a different opponent. But normally when we are training we are training with the big guys too. Now you bring it with somebody like you have in the opponent of the fight coming up.”
Romero: “Mousasi has the most toughest longest career in 185. He fight in PRIDE, Strikeforce, UFC and now Bellator. But 100% I know he have the belt in Strikeforce and in Bellator too and he stay in the UFC top 5 for a long time too. He’s amazing and great at fighting.”
Emmanuel Sanchez: “Patricio’s a great fighter. He’s accomplished so much and done so much in Bellator throughout his whole run. He taught me a very valuable lesson the first time and I’m excited to show what I learned in the second fight.”
Sanchez: “Once I defeat Patricio, then I’ll go ahead and defeat AJ, then he can go ahead and battle it out with him at Lightweight like he said.”
Sanchez: “I get it. Everyone’s trying to make a name for themselves while they’re not being active, and with everything going on in the world, it’s difficult to fight as often as we’d like. It is what it is as Max Holloway would say but I’m obviously focused on the two men I need to be focused on. I believe what we have right now I’m going to bring more excitement to the table.”
Sanchez: “I’m focusing mainly on myself. I intimidate people by hitting them. With all that trash talk you’ve got to be ready to back that up when the door closes. We’re both gentlemen and Pitbull knows he’s got a hungry merciless contender coming for him. I’m excited man, this is going to be an exciting fight. I know what he’s done since we fought too has only made me want to evolve even more to the mind state I am now.”
Sanchez: “After I go out and defeat Patricio Pitbull and A.J. McKee, yes, I’ll be the best Featherweight in the world, and there won’t be a need to call out other people across the pond or in other leagues. I believe this would cement my status as the best Featherweight in the world.”
Ryan Bader: “Machida, I’ve always wanted to revenge that loss. It was a long time ago and it’s a great gauge to see how far I’ve come from when I knew nothing about striking from then to now. And Nemkov of course he’s got the belt so I want revenge. This whole tournament is awesome though. Tough competition every single fight. The belt’s on the other side so I’ve got to make it to the finals.”
Bader: “I’m a totally different fighter than I was back then. 2012. A long time ago. And with Nemkov I didn’t have the proper time to cut weight, I felt flat. Then I got kicked in the head. I’d like to go back to the drawing board and get that one back.”
Bader: “With Lyoto Machida the one thing is you have to be patient, but you have to be smart about when you attack. The first time I thought nothing was happening in the fight, so my patience got the best of me the first time. I’m a better fighter overall, a veteran now, smarter, game planning, and all that stuff.”
Bader: “I’m in the position where I get to do one right off the bat and one later. I’ve got Machida first and I get to see how much I’ve grown. I do my part and I win another fight and then I’m in the finals for the belt. Who knows who comes out with the belt on that side?”
Bader: “You get paid to go out there and not get punched in the feet and compete, it was great. Anthony (Johnson) and I were joking around in the locker room right up until we competed in that grappling world, and it was a lot of fun. It was a little build up to something that might happen in the future.”
Bader: “The one Russian guy, I don’t know him, I’m going to have to do some studying on him. Everybody else is guys you would expect in the tournament.”
Bader: “I respect Tim (Johnson) a lot. We’ve talked on social media. I believe he’s next and Bellator has said he’s next so hold on and we’ll get it done at Heavyweight for sure.”
Bader: “If I lose in the Light Heavyweight tournament, I’m going to go back up and defend the Heavyweight title for sure.”
Bader: “I thought (Johnson) would go Heavyweight. I figured he’d never come back down, I grappled him in Submission Underground in December, and he was the same size I was so he can definitely make that weight.”
Bader: “(Cheick) Kongo just lost to Tim Johnson, and we were going to fight him if he won, but Tim won. I do feel like we have some unfinished business in that fight.”
Lyoto Machida: “For me one of the biggest achievements in Bellator is to be part of this tournament, because we’re going to have the best fighters in the world. I’m really happy with this and really happy with this next fight against Ryan Bader. I consider myself as a veteran fighter and I can’t wait to be there for the war.”
Machida: “I cannot consider a fight that’s already passed. I have to move on and focus on my next fight against Ryan Bader. He’s a different fighter, I’m a different fighter, now is a different moment.”
Machida: “When I decided to be in this grand prix, I didn’t care who I was going to face, because there would only be one champion. If I put some obstacle in my mind, I was not going to be able to make it. I consider all of them really strong but my only focus is in my next fight with Ryan Bader.”
Machida: “I’m in the best moment of my career. I’m more ready than ever. I just think about my next fight because I have to achieve everything I want to achieve, and then I will have time to think about if I want to retire.”
Machida: “I walk around 210, 212, 215 at most. I feel good in training. Even when I fight at 185, I train with this weight. When I was champion in UFC I was the same. Same weight, same training. I consider that I am faster when I fight at 205 than when I fight at 185.”
Machida: “My life is so good right now, that I don’t really think about what’s going to happen after each fight or when the tournament ends. I just like to think about fighting because I like to live with that mindset, in the present. Each fight is a fight for me.”
Machida: “I didn’t have this feeling, I just took everything as a challenge for me as a learning, so I learned as a fighter and as a person as well. Overcoming day by day, my routine, that’s my focus, that’s my purpose in life. Learning is a part of the process for me.”
A.J. McKee: “I’m the type of person I can’t stop training until the job is done. I’m staying active, staying busy, snowboarding a little, enjoying life. I’m not burning out. I’m coming a week in, a week out, just having fun. Once I see who the next opponent is at that point I can begin to really take things serious.”
McKee: “I wouldn’t mind whooping his ass and then going up to take Patricio’s belt at 155. I’m looking to eat the cake. Styles make fights so I wouldn’t say either fight is easier. Their first fight was close so I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out.”
McKee: “I’m waiting to see where things play out. Mystic Merc? I get in that cage and Merc people. That’s the Mercenary for you.”
McKee: “I like this thing dog. This is motivation, this is up for grabs. This bad boy, nobody holds this with all the names on it. (*holding the tournament belt*) Nothing has my name on it. To have your name on something you have to be a bad man. This thing is ready to go.”
McKee: “Everything happens for a reason. Inside of the cage, outside of the cage. Things have lined up perfect to accommodate me and the way my life is at the moment. Things always happen for a reason.”
McKee: “Congrats, hats off to him. Chandler’s a beast, he’s got great wrestling, he’s a great power puncher. I knew he was capable of it. Patricio beat him, styles make fights, and that’s the name of the game. I feel my style is superior to any other style out there.”
McKee: “I’m looking to go up to 55 you know? Getting older, getting wiser, getting more mature. I can stay in the gym, lift weights, add muscle add speed add power add agility. 155 is the future, why not? I can put a stamp on the Featherweight division and go up. That’s what it’s all about. People want super fights. Shit I might go up to 170. Why not?”
Corey Anderson: “I had to do a quick Google. First of all I had to manage to spell his name right. This guy has a pretty good style, pretty well known where he’s from, and just because we didn’t know (Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov) doesn’t mean anything.”
Anderson: “You’re always hopeful for a title shot. If you’re not here to be the best, why are you even here? Then I hear a couple of weeks ago they’re doing a tournament, now I’m still excited, because there’s no guessing on what’s next. You see the brackets, you know exactly what’s next. You go out there and do your job for three fights, you’re the champ, you’re the best. To get to that belt is a direct path. Three fights to get there.”
Anderson: “Yoel is technically the rookie in the division to Bellator too. To be honest I thought they was going to give Yoel and Rumble somebody else, get a little tune up fight, and whoever didn’t get the title fight would fight the other. So, we’re here and I’m okay with it.”
Anderson: “I’m going to try to get as much meat (from hunting) in the freezer as possible, get that lean venison meat to fuel those muscles.”
Anderson: “You gotta have a sense of humor with this thing. I’m cool with Rumble, ain’t no bad blood, and I’ve got respect for Romero. My reaction to those guys coming is just that I’m excited. It’s putting the stamp on that claim that Bellator has the best 205 division. I don’t think their (UFC) division is that good that they’re letting a 185er challenge for 205.”
Anderson: “I feel like I can beat anybody in the world at any given time. It’s going to be that much more exciting when we get to the finals. Two of the top tier guys coming to the top, put that stamp on being the best in the game.”
Patricio Freire: “I like that we can put Bellator on (Showtime) and also we can do a boxing match. (Adrien Broner?) Yeah I can beat that motherfucker.”
Freire: “Pedro was a young man, he got a loss, now he gonna make himself a better fighter and a better person. He’s a good boy. I know and he knows it was a war, that’s why we respect each other (now).”
Freire: “I like challenges. If boxing have someone who is good, I want to fight him. I don’t care about the titles, I care about the challenger. I want to dominate them. Put myself in a position to challenge them and dominate.”
Freire: “I believe in myself, so I think I can win this fight.”
Freire: “I don’t think about money, I think about the dream.”
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