LOS ANGELES – The third edition of Bellator’s World Grand Prix is set to launch with 16 featherweight athletes vying for the 145-pound championship and a one million dollar grand prize.
Streaming exclusively on DAZN, the world’s first truly dedicated live sports streaming service, the first round of pairings includes former champions, undefeated elite prospects, European standouts, athletes moving up a weight class and a fighter currently in the midst of the longest winning streak in company history. Fans can catch all the action, either live or on-demand, by downloading the DAZN app and watching on their connected device of choice.
It all begins with Bellator 226 on September 7 at SAP Center at San Jose, Calif., headlined by a heavyweight world title fight between Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo, where four opening round bouts will take place:
Daniel Straus (26-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-9)
Pat Curran (23-8) vs. Adam Borics (13-0)
Emmanuel Sanchez (18-4) vs. Tywan Claxton (5-0)
Sam Sicilia (16-9) vs. Pedro Carvalho (10-3)
Bellator 228 on September 28 will showcase the remaining first-round matchups, featuring eight more of the world’s best 145-pounders, including an explosive featherweight world title fight pitting Patricio “Pitbull” (29-4) against Juan Archuleta (23-1). All of the action emanates from The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., including a middleweight co-main event between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mouasi. The last three tournament bouts will see:
Darrion Caldwell (13-3) vs. Henry Corrales (17-3)
Daniel Weichel (39-11) vs. Saul Rogers (13-2)
A.J. McKee (14-0) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1, 1 NC)
Excluding the world title bout between “Pitbull” and Archuleta, the seven other opening round contests will consist of three rounds. Every bout from the second round on will be five, five minute rounds.
Following the completion of the opening round, the competitors still remaining in the grand prix will be paired with opponents via random drawing.
Beginning with “Pitbull” versus Archuleta, each time an athlete enters a tournament bout as champion, the Bellator featherweight title will be on the line, culminating in the Featherweight World Grand Prix on DAZN winner becoming the undisputed Bellator featherweight champion.
In addition, a tournament alternate contest will be decided upon following the conclusion of the opening round, with the victor available to fill in due to any unforeseen circumstances where a prior winner is unable to compete. Dates and locations for the remainder of the tournament will be determined at a later date.
Hailing from Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, two-time featherweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” will enter the Bellator cage for a promotional record 22nd time on September 28, having earned a finish in 21 of his 29 wins as a professional. The simultaneous two-division champion, fresh off a first-round stoppage victory over Michael Chandler, has become synonymous with excitement and fans can certainly expect more fireworks when he meets Juan Archuleta in LA. A winner of 18 consecutive fights, including five under the Bellator banner and a highlight reel-knockout over former champ Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 222, Juan Archuleta has solidified himself as the rightful No. 1 contender to “Pitbull’s” title. “The Spaniard” was a standout collegiate wrestler at Purdue University before turning pro in MMA and going on to win championships in four different divisions on the regional scene.
Following a two-year hiatus away from MMA, in which Straus spent time recovering from a motorcycle accident, the former featherweight champ returned to top form with a first round finish over Shane Kruchten in March. Now, the 34-year-old American Top Team product will look to climb back into the world title picture with a win over Campos. Making his 16th appearance with Bellator, Campos hopes to put an end to Straus’ improbable comeback when the two square off inside the cage in San Jose. The Lubbock, Texas native and Texas Tech wrestling standout will once again carry the tall task of defeating a former champion.
One of the most decorated featherweights in Bellator history, Chicago’s Curran enters the tournament looking to win the world title for the third time in his career. With 13 promotional victories to his name, the 31-year-old submission specialist is back and ready to make a statement against yet another rising prospect in Adam Borics. Coming off of one of the most brutal flying knee knockouts in Bellator history, the 26-year-old Hungarian will look to protect his unblemished professional mark of 13-0. With each of his past five bouts ending in either a knockout or submission, Borics presents the all-around firepower that very few 145-pounders have.
On the heels of yet another masterful performance that ended in a victory over Georgi Karakhanyan in the main event of Bellator 218 earlier this year, “El Matador” is ready for one more title run as he prepares for the undefeated Tywan Claxton. Since joining forces with Bellator in 2014, the Milwaukee, Wisc. resident has collected 10 victories over a 13-fight stint, including key wins over the likes of Daniel Straus, Marcos Galvao, and the previously noted Georgi Karakhanyan (2x). Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, the tech savvy Claxton will look to extend his current streak to six consecutive victories, all of which have come while fighting for the Scott Coker-led promotion. Of his five wins, four have come by way of knockout, including a pair of first round stoppages, making the 26-year-old powerhouse one of the most exciting athletes on the roster.
Fighting out of Spokane, Wash., Sicilia will be making his fourth Bellator appearance, having recently collected victories over veterans Derek Campos and Marcos Galvao. Fresh off of a 15-minute battle with the aforementioned Campos in December of last year, the 33-year-old knockout artist will look for a quick finish on Sept. 7. Portuguese submission specialist Pedro Carvalho will be entering the Bellator cage for the fourth time in his seven-year professional career, looking for his fourth consecutive victory. Riding a current winning streak of five and with victories in eight of his last 10 contests, the 23-year-old SBG Ireland-product is on the cusp of becoming an elite force in the 145-pound division – winning the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix would be the perfect way to do so.
Making the jump to the 145-pound division for the first time since August of last year, the former Bellator bantamweight world champion will look to continue his seamless transition up in weight class when he challenges Corrales on Sept. 28. With key first round finishes over the likes of Leandro Higo, Joe Warren, and Shawn Bunch, the 2009 NCAA D1 National Champion in wrestling will try to put an early end to the hometown favorite’s night when they meet at The Forum. Riding an impressive five-fight winning streak that includes victories over divisional hotshots Georgi Karakhanyan, Aaron Pico, and Noad Lahat, Corrales hopes to extend his recent success and add another highlight reel knockout to his resume. The 32-year-old Whittier, Calif., native is looking forward to his return to The Forum, a venue in which he has tallied three consecutive victories, including a pair of brutal knockouts.
With 50 professional fights to his name, Daniel Weichel is ready to make his 2019 debut in a highly anticipated grand prix opening round bout with Rogers. Following his Bellator debut in 2014, “Drake” has enjoyed an impressive promotional mark of 8-3, including pivotal victories over Pat Curran, Georgi Karakhanyan, and Emmanuel Sanchez. With an elite ground game of his own, Saul “Tha Hangman” Rogers hopes to neutralize Weichel’s overpowering jiu-jitsu with a full arsenal of his own. Making just his second Bellator appearance, the 29-year-old British sensation will be in search of his 10th career finish when he faces off with the tough veteran on Sept. 28.
A product of Team Bodyshop, where his father is the head coach, McKee will take his unblemished professional mark of 14-0 back into the Bellator cage in search of his 10th career finish. With each of his first 14 wins coming inside of the Bellator cage, the flashy 24-year-old is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable faces of the promotion. Hailing from Riverside, Calif., the 38-fight veteran Karakhanyan will enter the Bellator cage for the 14th time in his 13-year professional career on Sept. 28. With 21 finishes to his name, the 34-year-old former title challenger will look to become the first ever opponent to defeat McKee en route to the second round of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.
Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix on DAZN First Round Matchups:
Bellator 226 at SAP Center – Sept. 7: Daniel Straus (26-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-9)
Bellator 226 at SAP Center – Sept. 7: Pat Curran (23-8) vs. Adam Borics (13-0)
Bellator 226 at SAP Center – Sept. 7: Emmanuel Sanchez (18-4) vs. Tywan Claxton (5-0)
Bellator 226 at SAP Center – Sept. 7: Sam Sicilia (16-9) vs. Pedro Carvalho (10-3)
Bellator 228 at The Forum – Sept. 28: Champion Patricio “Pitbull” (29-4) vs. Juan Archuleta (23-1)
Bellator 228 at The Forum – Sept. 28: Darrion Caldwell (13-3) vs. Henry Corrales (17-3)
Bellator 228 at The Forum – Sept. 28: Daniel Weichel (39-11) vs. Saul Rogers (13-2)
Bellator 228 at The Forum – Sept. 28: A.J. McKee (14-0) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1, 1 NC)
*Card subject to change.
Please visit Bellator.com for more information.