Don’t look now, but Bellator MMA has just raised the stakes in its head-to-head battle with the UFC this September.
While the promotion had previously announced a solid championship fight to headline their Sept. 5 fight card, even Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire 2.0 didn’t have a ton of star power to compete with UFC Fight Night 50. That’s officially changed with a slew of new bouts as announced by Bellator on Wednesday, with former UFC and Strikeforce veterans now rounding out the event:
• Cheick Kongo (21-9) vs. Lavar Johnson (18-9)
• Bobby Lashley (10-2) vs. Josh Burns (8-7)
• King Mo (12-4) vs. Tom DeBlass (9-2)
All things considered, that’s a pretty strong supporting cast for the Bellator 123 card, and should definitely lessen the blow that it’ll take from being aired the same night as a UFC event.
Keep in mind, UFC Fight Night 50 features far better, more popular talent like Alistair Overeem, Joe Lauzon, Ronald Souza and Gegard Mousasi. That’s not exactly a weak lineup even for a Friday night, especially for hardcore MMA fans.
But all comparisons to the UFC aside, this should be a good example of how things will look for America’s No. 2 MMA promotion with the exit of founder Bjorn Rebney and the entrance of recently-hired Bellator president (and former Strikeforce CEO) Scott Coker. Bellator 123 now features enough “known” names that it shouldn’t and won’t be an afterthought going into fight week. Moreover, with the event taking place just 10 miles away from UFC Fight Night 50, this should also ensure that Spike TV cameras aren’t navigating around a mostly-empty arena.
Competition is a good thing, and hopefully we see more of it with this new Bellator leadership.