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Bellator announces partnership with NASCAR

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Big news coming out of the “City of Angels” as Bellator and Spike TV announced that they will be partnering Monster Energy and NASCAR to promote MMA fights that will take place at four select races during the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

It what is surely one of the shrewdest business moves in MMA history, the fights will be a pre-race activity available for the just under one hundred thousand people that NASCAR routinely averages for their live gate at these races.

The following was released via an official press release from the promotion:

“I’m excited to announce Bellator’s partnership with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” said Bellator President Scott Coker. “Bellator and NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate in sports and we couldn’t be happier to bring MMA and motorsports together. Monster Energy has been a great partner of ours over the years and we’re excited about the opportunity to integrate our brand into another great sports property within the Monster Energy family. I want to thank Cody Dresser and Hans Molenkamp from Monster Energy for helping put this great partnership together, and I’m looking forward to introducing Bellator to a whole new fan base.”

“MMA is an exciting sport that appeals to a wide demographic,” said Mitch Covington Vice President of Sports Marketing. By partnering with Bellator to bring mixed martial arts to NASCAR we are able to bring a fresh dynamic to the racetrack and a taste of what Monster Energy is into, allowing us all to connect with a new fan base in relevant and meaningful ways to further elevate the series.”

Bellator is currently scheduled to host events at four races throughout the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, including both NASCAR’s championship and all-star race weekends.

Bellator MMA will be featured at the following 2017 NASCAR races:

  • Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 20
  • Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 19
  • Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 15
  • Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 19″

 

This announcement continues to reinforce that the promotion owned by massive media conglomerate VIACOM has a willingness to “think outside the box” and are not afraid to use other sports as a platform to promote their own brand. Something the UFC has failed to do in the past. Although the rabidness and loyalty of NASCAR fans may not be truly appreciated by many MMA fans around the world, there is no denying that stock car racing’s biggest company has a huge market. Despite being seen by some as a fringe sport, NASCAR races draw bigger crowds than any other sport in the world both in terms of live attendance and television viewership. NASCAR fans also happen to be the exact demographic upon which MMA was marketed towards in the early years of the sport almost 25 years ago.

2016 saw Bellator bring their brand to the international landscape as they promoted bouts in three countries that the UFC has yet to visit, Italy, Israel and Hungary. In 2017 they have continued to grow that presence as they have already scheduled 4 international shows, one of which has already taken place in Belfast and the second of which, an MMA and Kick Boxing Card, is to be held this Saturday, April 8th in Torino, Italy. It will be their second event in that city and will be headlined by a consensus top 10 ranked lightweight, Bellator Champion Eduardo “Dudu” Dantas versus former RFA and LFA title holder Leandro Higo. In the past, champions from these promotions have traditionally been signed to the UFC.

The company has also continued to solidify their role as being a power player in terms of fighter pay as they have landed a number of high-profile free agent signings of homegrown UFC fighters in recent years such as Rory McDonald and Benson Henderson, just to name a few. The biggest coup perhaps being the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who chose to sign with Bellator over the UFC in November of 2016. “The Last Emperor” will make his Bellator debut against former UFC fighter Matt Mitrione at Bellator 180 on June 24th. That show will be the promotion’s second pay-per-view and their first show in New York City at the Mecca of fight venues, Madison Square Garden.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

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Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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Dhiego Lima vs. Yushin Okami added to Glendale, Arizona card

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Fights, fights, fights, the world-wide leader in MMA added another fan-friendly bout to the already exciting ‘Fight Night: Glendale’ card. Two time ‘Ultimate Fighter’ finalist, Dhiego Lima takes on veteran Yushin Okami. Lima took to Instagram earlier today to announce the news.

Four days after adding an important Heavyweight clash to UFC Glendale, the promotion booked another crucial bout, in the Welterweight division. While, neither fighter ranks inside the top 15 of the Welterweight division, both sit at pivotal points in their career. In the case of Lima, he comes off a second appearance on the reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. Much like his first appearance, the Welterweight made the competition finals.

Lima first appeared on the reality series during Season 19: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn. In the preliminary round, he defeated Adam Stroup via unanimous decision (2 rounds), to earn a place in the house. From there, he submitted both his quarter-final and semi-final opponents. Lima left the Ultimate Fighter house undefeated, down the line, he did a similar thing on the 25th season of the show. He defeated Hayder Hassan, Gilbert Smith, and Tom Gallicchio, all by unanimous decision leaving the house undefeated for a second time.

Unfortunately, the inverse of his performances in the ‘TUF’ house came to fruition in the finals. In two Ultimate Fighter Finale’s, his record fell to 0-2, following Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25. What happened to be even more unfortunate, Lima’s opponent at, The Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25, Jesse Taylor, tested positive for the anti-estrogen agent clomiphene. The sample collected for the failed drug test was in an out-of-competition setting, therefor Lima’s loss to Taylor stands. The loss puts his record with the UFC at, 1-4.

A loss shouldn’t place Lima near the chopping block but, a win would greatly improve his standing with the promotion. The other half of the newly announced bout, is in a similar position.

Yushin Okami made his first appearance for the promotion at UFC 62. Okami earned the victory in his debut. The win marked his third consecutive win in the midst of a six fight win-streak. Over the course of those six victories, Okami defeated Alan Belcher (UFC 62), Kalib Starnes (UFC 64), Rory Singer (UFC 66), and Mike Swick (UFC 69). The Japanese born mixed martial artist remained on the roster for seven more years before being cut following a first round TKO loss to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.

Okami fought for various organizations following his release, while also dropping down to Welterweight. When, in the latter part of 2017, he was called upon as a short-notice injury replacement by the UFC. Seven days before UFC Fight Night 117: St. Preux vs. Rua, one half of the main event, Maurico Rua, withdrew due to an apparent knee injury. Okami answered the call, giving him seven days to prepare for rising Light Heavyweight contender, Ovince St. Preux. The Japanese native lost the contest by submission in the opening round.

UFC Fight Night Glendale takes place in Glendale Arizona at the Gila River Arena on April 14th. The main event features Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirer.

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