The Bellator MMA Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament Final
By: Jesse Donathan
The greatest fighter I have ever seen is Fedor Emelianenko. Also known as “The Last Emperor,” Emelianenko is a living legend in mixed martial arts circles. For me, what has always made Fedor so great was his propensity to win in the face of imminent defeat. The ability of Emelianenko to look nearly godlike while at the same time strikingly human. With few exceptions, Fedor is almost always the smaller man in the cage; it goes without saying that Emelianenko is a true giant killer. “The Last Emperor” will compete for the Bellator Heavyweight championship on January 26, 2019 against UFC veteran and current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion Ryan “Darth” Bader in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final which will air on the Paramount channel this upcoming Saturday night.
“When Fedor Emelianenko—the baddest man on the planet—walks through the door, the first thing you notice about him is … he’s not all that big. The statistics list Fedor Emelianenko as 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, but even that seems a stretch,” writes Mark Jacobs in his March 2011 article for blackbeltmag.com titled “Up close with Fedor Emelianenko an MMA Legend.” According to Jacobs, Emelianenko began his martial arts studies at an early age in the Russian grappling art of Sambo before becoming a three-time world Sambo champion. Better known as the long-time reigning Pride FC mixed martial arts Heavyweight champion, according to an August 26 2018 article for espn.com titled, “Is Fedor Emelianenko the best ever?” ESPN SportsCenter host David Murphy believes “Fedor’s mystique is like Michael Jordan’s.” Murphy would go on to state that, “Fedor went unbeaten for nearly a decade in the most volatile division in the sport, with first-round finishes over former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Tim Sylvia. In Pride alone, Fedor went 14-0 (1 NC), with 11 finishes.”
There is something special about Fedor Emelianenko. It’s the same thing that makes the lineal heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury great: the heart of a lion, as exemplified by Fury getting off the deck in the 12th round after being knocked unconscious by WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. In a fight Fury was winning from early on, “The Gypsy King” was well on his way to victory until in the twelfth and final round Fury got his clock cleaned by a thunderous one-two combination from “The Bronze Bomber.” Fury, in a matter of seconds went from the next WBC Heavyweight champion of the world to knocked unconscious. And seemingly before our very eyes Fury returned from the dead, rising much the same as the legendary professional wrestler “The Undertaker” whose supernatural persona electrified audiences. Only Fury did it for real, rising from being knocked stone cold unconscious to going on to be competitive if not winning the remainder of the exchanges in the round.
This is the stuff legends are made of and it is a glimpse of what has made Emelianenko great from virtually the beginning of his career. The ability to look supernatural even in the face of being brought down to earth by opponents who themselves are tremendous fighters and athletes in their own right.
Throughout Fedor’s career he has routinely displayed the ability to come back from seemingly incontrovertible odds and seize victory from the jaws of defeat. Emelianenko truly does have the heart of a lion and it’s for these reasons alone he can never be counted out of a fight. If there ever was a fighter who fought with divinity in his corner, “The Last Emperor” is that athlete.
Ryan “Darth” Bader is “The Ultimate Fighter” season 8 winner and a 20 fight UFC veteran. An exceptional fighter that possesses power in both hands, Bader has a particularly effective left hook that has iced more than one opponent and therefor it needs to be accounted for at all times in the cage. Ryan has faced a murderer’s row of opponents at light heavyweight, only losing to some of the most dangerous fighters in the sport today. While not a particularly orthodox striker, Bader’s athleticism and fight acumen make him a game and dangerous opponent because his strong wrestling base means the looming threat of the take down is always present. Bader is a younger, fresher opponent than Emelianenko with an all-around mixed martial arts game that makes him a handful for even the toughest opponents.
With a current six fight win streak, including two consecutive victories in the Bellator Heavyweight Word Grand-Prix tournament against Muhammed Lawal and Matt Mitrione, Bader has a chance to become the first two division champion in Bellator history and cement his rightful spot as among the top fighters in the sport today against an opponent nearly universally renowned as the best to ever do it. In a December 22, 2018 mmafighting.com article by Guilherme Cruz titled, “Coach details path to victory for Ryan Bader against Fedor Emelianenko” coach Jair Lourenco believes the keys to victory for Bader are speed, not allowing Fedor to become comfortable in the cage and perhaps most importantly not giving the Russian so much respect that it effects Bader’s own game plan.
For Emelianenko, eating lightning and crapping thunder is the key to victory. The Russian legend needs to nullify the athleticism of the younger Bader, 35, stop the takedown and showcase his diversified mixed martial arts skillset. Fedor possesses both the ability to stop Bader on the feet or submit him with Emelianenko’s world class combat Sambo grappling background. Though Emelianenko is many years past his physical prime, this is the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final. Even at his advanced age of 42, to make it this far in the tournament proves the Russian legend is still a very dangerous opponent.
This is a legacy fight for both fighters, though they enjoy very different positions in the hierarchy of greatness. For Emelianenko, he is already widely considered the greatest mixed martial arts fighter to ever live. A victory Saturday night will only serve to further cement his reputation as a fighter who managed to transcend generations and recapture a modern, major heavyweight title even when there was nothing left to prove. The fact he is even in the tournament final in 2019 proves what kind of sportsman he is; win, lose or draw Fedor will always be remembered as the great champion that he is. For Bader, this is an opportunity to become a two-division champion and defeat one of the greatest fighters of our time. Already a Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, to capture the Bellator Heavyweight title against “The Last Emperor” is an opportunity every fighter dream of and is without question the kind of victory to hang your hat on. Tune in Saturday night, January 26, 2019 to the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final featured on the Paramount channel and bring your popcorn; win or lose this is among our last chances to see a true legend compete at the highest levels in the sport today.
Chael Sonnen: “I’m the Biggest Heel this Sport Has”
By: Sean Crose
“I don’t do a whole lot of it,” Chael Sonnen said on a Tuesday conference call to promote his Belator 208 heavyweight title eliminator this weekend against Fedor Emilianenko, “just a show every here and there.” Sonnen was referring to his very active media presence as a podcaster and commentator. Even after working the wild UFC McGregor-Nurmagomedov card last weekend, Sonnen still claimed he was ready to face Fedor, a man widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight MMA combatant in history. “I’m sore and tired all the time,” Sonnen added, as proof that he’s been hard at work preparing for the Fedor match, which will go down at New York’s Nassau Coliseum.
Sonnen, one of the most highly regarded practitioners in mixed martial arts, might be best known for his famous near win against then dominant UFC star Anderson Silva years ago. Now that he’s facing another iconic brand in the 37-5-1 Fedor, the 30-15-1 Sonnen is at a point in his long career where he can put things in perspective. Of his colorful time as a top fighter, Sonnen claimed: “I think I should have more appreciation.” Still, the heavyweight is a man who looks towards the future. “As my life moves on,” he added. “I would like to create new memories.”
He’ll certainly have a chance against Fedor, a nice seeming man who nonetheless has earned a reputation as an aggressive, fearsome, and highly skilled fighter, one who is able to employ a variety of disciplines while in the octagon. “I think Fedor’s great,” Sonnen said, declaring his foe “the best heavyweight of all time” (while adding Fedor was about “to face the best fighter of all time”). Sonnen, who was long known as a classic villain, now seems reasonable in an era of Conor and Khabib. Not that he’s happy about it.
“I’m the biggest heel this sport has,” he stated on the call. Sonnen, however, has never thrown a dolly against a bus window, nor has he ever dove into the audience after a fight to attack someone, a difference between himself and recent UFC stars he seemed happy to admit to. “It’s important to be civilized,” Sonnen claimed outright. “It was a really big shock,” he said, when the inevitable matter of last weekend’s near riot in Las Vegas came up. “I don’t know why it happened.”
Yet, for the moment, Sonnen’s main priority is beating his famed opponent this Saturday. “I’ve been stunned,” he said of Fedor, “at how hard he can hit – especially with that right hand.” Not that he’s worried. Sonnen, after all, is the biggest heel around.
Or at least that’s a character he still likes to play.
Bellator 206 on DAZN: Rampage / Silva, Mousasi vs MacDonald Main Card Preview
by Bryanna Fissori
Bellator will kick off their partnership with DAZN, the world’s largest dedicated live sports streaming service on Saturday, September 29 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California for Bellator 206.
Gerard Mousasi v Rory MacDonald – Middleweight World Title
The event is headlined by Gegard Mousasi (44-6-2) and Rory Macdonald (20-4-0) in a battle for the Bellator Middleweight World Title. MacDonald beat Douglass Lima at the beginning of the year to secure the welterweight title. Mousasi took the middleweight title from Rafael Carvalho in May at Bellator 200. Mousasi called out MacDonald in his post-fight interview.
“I’m going to call him ‘Chicken Rory,’” Mousasi said after Bellator 200. “That’s the fight we want. I do respect him a lot – he’s a tough fighter. But I think we’re going to push for that fight. We’re going to call him names until he takes the fight. . . .This belt will open some doors for me,” Mousasi said. “It’s all about opportunities. I have to fight contenders, but you also have big names. I’d rather fight Rory than the other guy, he’s a good fighter and he’s bald. I don’t know his name. He’s the contender, but he’s ugly.”
MacDonald put up no resistance, and since then both fighters have been asking for the bout to happen.
Quinton Jackson v Wanderlei Silva
The Bellator 206 co-main event is a heavyweight match-up between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-13-0) and Wanderlei Silva (35-13-0). This will be the fourth time these two have met in professional competition. Their first two bouts took place for Pride FC in 2003 and 2004. Silva won both of those bouts but lost to Jackson at UFC 92 in 2008. Ten years later Jackson, coming off two wins, looks to even the score. Silva hasn’t fought in over a year and is coming off a decision loss to Chael Sonnen.
Douglas Lima v Andrey Koreshkov – Welterweight Grand Prix
The bracket for the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix on DAZN has been set and will kick off with a long-awaited rubber match between Douglas “The Phenom” Lima (29-7) and Andrey “Spartan” Koreshkov (21-2). Koreshkov won the first bout via decision on Bellator 140 in 2015. The two met again late the next year on Bellator 162 where Lima secured the TKO victory. Tension is expected to be high for this one.
Aaron Pico v Leandro Higo
Despite having less cage-time than the majority of fighters he’s going to face at this level, Aaron Pico (3-1-0) doesn’t seem to have any trouble facing Leandro Higo (18-4-0). All three of Pico’s wins have come in the first round, two of them via body shots. Higo is coming off a loss to bantamweight titleholder Darrion Caldwell.
“The year ahead is coming closer to ranked guys and winning the world championship,” Pico said. “People thought I was crazy when came into MMA, and I said I don’t want to fight guys with losing records. But for me personally, fighting a guy that’s 2-4 or 1-3, and then hitting him with a body shot and knocking him out, just because I know I’m capable of doing it, I just wouldn’t feel good as a person.”
Keri Melendez v Dakota Zimmerman
Keri Melendez (2-0-0) has had an impressive start to her professional career and looks to keep the climbing the ranks in the 115-pound women’s division. To do that she will have to get through Dakota Zimmerman (1-0-0) who will have some cage rust to shake off after a three-year absence.
Bellator 206 on DAZN
Earlier this year, Bellator and DAZN announced a multi-year landmark distribution agreement. The international streaming service will feature seven exclusive stacked fight cards per year on DAZN and another 15 that are simulcast across Paramount Network and DAZN. DAZN currently streams 15,000 live events and 100 million hours of sports content globally each year, which includes boxing and MMA. The streaming service is now available in the U.S. for $9.99 a month, just in time for Bellator 206. The first month is free for new subscribers.
Bellator MMA Live Results: Heather Hardy Defeats Ana Julaton
By: William Holmes
Bellator MMA put on a live event at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut and featured a main event of former UFC fighters Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson, with the winner to advance to the semi finals of the heavyweight Grand Prix.
For boxing fans however, the main event was between Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton. Hardy had a record of 20-0 as a pro boxer and Julaton had a record of 14-4-1 in boxing. However, they decided to meet first in a MMA cage.. Hardy held titles as a boxer in the featherweight and super bantamweight divisions while Julaton held titles in the super bantamweight division.
Both Julaton and Hardy are coming off of a loss in their last MMA fight.
Photo Credit: Bellator MMA Twitter Account
The opening bout of the broadcast was between featherweights Tywan Claxton (2-0) and Jose Perez (0-2). Claxton is considered by many to be a high ceiling prospect and he easily disposed of Perez by TKO at 3:39 of the second round.
Former b=Bellator champion Liam McGeary (13-2) returned to his winning ways with a third round TKO at 4:02 over Vadim Nemkov (8-3).
Ana Julaton (2-3) and Heather Hardy (1-1) met in the flyweight division and displayed that they have been training in all facets of mixed martial arts, including the grappling.
Julaton landed the first jab of the fight and Hardy answered with a leg kick before being placed in a body lock by Julaton. Julaton was able to land a few knees on Hardy when in tight, but Hardy had a decent whizzer placed in. Hardy finished the first round while attempting a side choke.
The second round started off with some brief exchanges, but Julaton’s punches appeared to lack any snap. Hardy and Julaton were clinched for much of the round again, but Julaton was able to attempt a can opener submission. Hardy landed several hard hammer fists on Julaton while she was attempting to finish a low single takedown. Hardy finished the second round by taking the back of Julaton and landing some ground and pound
Julaton looked like the more tired fighter in the third round and forced a body lock after taking two good punches by Hardy. Julaton attempted a spinning back kick when the referee broke them up but Hardy again landed more strikes when they were standing. The third round featured Julaton and Hardy locked in grappling positions, but Hardy was able to finish the round with a takedown attempt that resulted with Julaton finishing on top.
A MMA rules fight between two boxers turned into a mainly grappling affair.
Heather Hardy wins by decision with scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
There has been talks of them re-matching in the boxing ring instead of a MMA cage and the fight was close enough for fans to want to see it.
Boxing Insider Interview with Heather Hardy
By: Bryant Romero
Undefeated pro boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy makes her third appearance in the cage at Bellator 194 on February 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut where she takes former boxing world champion Ana Julaton in a mma flyweight bout. Boxing Insider was able to catch up with Heather to talk about her next fight in Bellator, her passion for fighting whether it’s boxing or mma, her job as a fitness instructor, and the challenges she’s had to endure while making the transition from boxing to mma.
Photo Credit: Heather Hardy Twitter Account
BR: Are you training at Gracie’s Academy right now?
Heather Hardy: “Right now I’m at Renzo Gracie in Manhattan during the majority of my training and I train at Gleason’s in Brooklyn.”
BR: How is training going so far for this fight that’s upcoming?
HH: “It’s going great. I’ve never heard a fighter a week out of a fight to say they haven’t had a good camp. I feel good.”
BR: This is your third fight with Bellator. Obviously the money was the motivating factor for you to transition from boxing to mma. What’s been the hardest transition from one sport to the other?
HH: “Probably being able to allocate the proper amount of time for training, because I’m still taking care of my daughter, still working two jobs. I mean I’m still trying to do press and I’m doing it on 6th avenue running. Allocating the proper amount of time that’s needed to train all the different disciplines have been extremely challenging.”
BR: When it comes to the competition between boxing and the two girls that you fought in Bellator, when it comes to the striking ability, do you have respect for their striking ability, is it different?
HH: “First of all in mma they’re using 4oz gloves, so even if these girls aren’t as accurate with their punching. They’re punching with bad intentions with very little padding, so I don’t respect a punch anymore or any less regardless of who’s throwing it at me.”
BR: Besides the money factor, are you trying to accomplish something in the sport?
HH: “I just want to win some fights, get known, and maybe open up doors for bigger fights in New York City for other women.”
BR: Did you have to get your promoter’s blessing to make this transition? Did you have to go through a legal process with Lou Dibella?
HH: “Lou is like a dad to me and when I called him and asked him, you know he’s the last one that’s going to take food off my plate. And he pretty much said if this is what you really want to do. Then I’m going to let you do it.
But he didn’t have to do that. I was legally bound only to Lou. Where I’m not supposed to be competing in anything else, I couldn’t have done this without his blessing, so I’m really fortunate that I got it.”
BR: Obviously you still love boxing, you did it with not a great financial reward in return, but can you honestly say to yourself that you’re in love with mma?
HH: “I’m in love with fighting. I love to fight, I’m good at fighting. Even when I’m not good at it, I’m still better than most people would ever dreamed to be. Whether it’s mma, boxing, sword fighting, or thumb wrestling, I’m all in it.”
BR: Do you still feel you have some unfinished business in boxing?
HH: “I didn’t go anywhere, I’m boxing I think in April.”
BR: Do you see a big fight in women’s boxing with you? Maybe with one of the Serrano sisters or maybe the Top Rank Prospect Mikaela Mayer that’s coming up?
HH: “The conversation with me and Amanda (Serrano) comes up all the time. We are under the same promotional banner and we’re such good friends. We said a long time ago, if we’re going to fight, it better be for a whole lotta money, so we can go on vacation. So will a fight with her ever happen? Sure if they pay us enough.”
BR: Can you talk to me talk to me a little bit about the state of women’s boxing? Is it heading in the right direction?
HH: “Women’s boxing is certainly on the rise right now. You got Clarissa Shields headlining cards on Showtime. That’s epic, it doesn’t happen and it’s really exciting, but the problem is I’m 36 years old and I don’t have time to hope it comes around faster sooner than later.
I’m still in it, I’m still going to fight and hopefully something big will materialize but you still got to have a backup plan.”
BR: Let’s talk about your next opponent. She’s also a former champion in boxing who has transitioned. Her name is Ana Julaton. Do you have any history with her; do you know anything about her?
HH: “When I started boxing, Ana was one of the big names, everybody knew her. She was really eloquent and a well-spoken world champion who spoke out for women’s rights and equality for women’s boxers. She transitioned to mma when I was in my first year of pro boxing like 2013; I only had 3 or 4 fights.”
BR: Would you say is tougher to get in the boxing ring and fight or is it a little tougher to get in the octagon with more weapons you have to utilize?
HH: “For me it’s tougher to go in the cage because boxing isn’t tough for me. I understand every aspect of boxing. I’m still learning too many things in mma to understand everything to the extent where it’s not intimidating.”
BR: Would you say your first two fights in mma was tougher than anything you had in boxing?
HH: “I would say there was more action physically.”
BR: Who’s the best fighter in the world P4P in men’s boxing?
HH: “Right now I would say either Terence Crawford who’s an exceptional fighter. Errol Spence has really proven himself to be a problem. Lomachenko, how can you not say his name? I say those 3 guys are probably will go a long time before they get beaten.”
BR: Whatever happens on February 16th will you continue with Bellator and has UFC expressed any interest?
HH: “I haven’t had any interest in UFC; it doesn’t matter if they express it. I’m really happy with Bellator. Regardless of what happens, I’m going to keep fighting. If I walked out of my last fight and came back into the cage, I really don’t think Ana has what it takes to give me a whooping worse than the last one.”
BR: I wanted to talk to you about the shadow box Fitness classes your teaching in Brooklyn, Manhattan. What can you tell us about that?
HH: “Well, there’s a lot of new fitness inspired boutique boxing gyms popping around the city, and shadow box had contacted me, and they wanted to do something a little different. They didn’t want to be trendy boxing; they really wanted their instructors to have a good grasp of what boxing is about.
So they hired me to teach their instructors and for the last couple months I’ve been giving the instructors boxing lessons, so they now know how to teach boxing. A couple of days a week I teach classes there, just to make a little extra cash. I like it, so I teach instructional classes there now too.”
BR: What can you say about the trainers there?
HH: “All of the trainers there are great.”
BR: My final question is what’s the one thing you still want to accomplish in boxing?
HH: “I want the WBC 126 world title.”
Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”
Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”
By: Matthew N. Becher
Heather “The Heat” Hardy is one of the top ranked female fighters in the world today. With a record of 20 wins 0 losses, she is a staple in the New York boxing scene, remaining a fan favorite at her home away from home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Hardy is currently training for her mixed martial arts debut, June 24th on the Bellator 180 undercard at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Hardy was kind enough to take a few moments to speak with us about her upcoming fight and the switch from Boxing to MMA.
Boxing Insider: What made you decide to switch to Mixed Martial Arts?
Heather Hardy: It’s not actually a switch, I’m just going to do both. The boxing was just taking a really long time to turn around. I still haven’t made a really nice paycheck out of it. I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like. So I’m hoping that the MMA will bring back some attention to boxing and vice versa. This is just like another job.
Boxing Insider: For the most part, boxers do not typically adapt well to MMA. Does that concern you?
Heather Hardy: Every fighter is different. All boxers are not the same. Maybe a fighter that wasn’t as good as me didn’t adapt well. But I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with elite level fighters and I’m feeling pretty good.
Boxing Insider: How do you feel about finally fighting at Madison Square Garden? This will be your first time right?
Heather Hardy: It will be my first time as a professional. I won my Golden Gloves title there. I’m super excited to be fighting there as a professional and adding it to my resume.
Boxing Insider: You are 35 years old and highly ranked in the featherweight division, as a boxer. Do you think a title fight is going to be coming up soon?
Heather Hardy: Could be, I mean, I’m hoping for it. Right now all the girls that are holding titles are out of the country and they don’t want to come to America. Because in America they don’t pay female boxers. So I’m really hoping that we can change that and we can get one of those girls over here so I can take their title.
Boxing Insider: Could you go over there?
Heather Hardy: It’s hard because I’m signed to a promotional deal with Lou Dibella and I’m contracted under him. His fights are only here in New York, so it would require a lot of negotiations for me to fight somewhere else.
Boxing Insider: How much fighting do you think you have left in you?
Heather Hardy: It’s really hard to say. Your body is a machine. If you take care of it you have extended use for it. If you abuse your body you won’t have a long time. I take care of myself. As long as I feel good, I’ll keep going.