SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA — Bellator’s next big million-dollar grand prix tournament is about to get underway.
Lightweights take center stage this weekend (Fri., March 10, 2023) here in San Jose at Bellator 292. In the co-main event, the tournament kicks off with a thrilling matchup, pitting Russia’s Alexandr Shabliy (22-3) against former RIZIN lightweight grand prix winner Tofiq Musayev (20-4).
The battle will see the No. 4 and 2 ranked fighters look to advance. In the main event directly after, the undefeated champion Usman Nurmagomedov gets his first challenger as champion, facing MMA legend Benson Henderson on the other side of the bracket.
“It’s a hard matchup to find two people like me and Tofiq,” Shabliy told MMA Mania. “We are pretty similar in style and we are both at a similar level. So, overall, I think it’s an amazing matchup that could not happen all that frequently. Just in general, the whole tournament Bellator put together, the opportunity, the prize, everything is very unique about it. I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Shabliy comes into the eight-man tournament as one of the sleeper picks to win it all. His seven-fight winning streak and recent beatdown of former champion Brent Primus have hardcore fans invested in Shabliy’s ability to make a run. The 29-year-old knows what he’s up against with each fight and doesn’t expect it to be an easy path starting with Azerbaijan’s finest.
“Tofiq is very dangerous,” Shabliy said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning, it might be somewhere in the middle that you might make a little move and he’ll explode and get you. So, I wouldn’t say experimenting is a good approach here because he is gonna punish you for that. But overall, yeah. We’re pretty much playing it by the book, not doing any stupid mistakes and maybe tire him out.”
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