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Freire out, Brandon Girtz in to face Derek Campos at Bellator 181

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This afternoon it was announced that Bellator 181 now has a new main event.

“The Fighting Pride of Lubbock, Texas” Derek “The Stallion” Campos looks to continue his 3 fight win streak when he enters the cage to face off for the third time with the heavy-handed Division II All-American wrestler from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Brandon Girtz.

The bout takes place on Friday, July 14th at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Thackerville’s WinStar Casino has quickly become a mainstay for Bellator MMA. The last Bellator card held there was just in March of this year and this event will mark the 13th time that the promotion has held an event at WinStar since January 2013. The only city to host more Bellator shows is Uncasville, Connecticut.

Campos was originally scheduled to face Patricky Freire in a rematch of their 2014 fight that took place in the Semi-Finals of the Bellator Season Ten Lightweight Tournament. This is the third time that a rematch between the two men has been scrapped. The first was scheduled to take place in Torino, Italy at Bellator 152 in April of 2016 but was canceled because Campos suffered an injury to his knee during a last-minute sparring session less than a week before he was to board a plane to make the trip abroad for fight week.

The second planned rematch was also supposed to take place in Thackerville at Bellator 167 in December of last year but it was also called off, that time due to a Freire injury. While Campos and Freire are friends, this rematch was a fight that “The Stallion” has been wanting to come to fruition for quite some time. The reason for the switch this time around is that Scott Coker and company decided to move Freire into the headlining fight of Bellator 183 in San Jose, California on September 23rd against “Smooth” Benson Henderson.

Also taking place at that event in September will be the promotional debut of longtime UFC fighter Roy “Big Country” Nelson. He will square off against Javy Ayala, a man who delivered a knockout of the year candidate for 2016 in just 16 seconds when he tattooed Sergei Kharitonov to spoil the Russian’s Bellator debut at Bellator 163. Ayala was also removed from the Bellator 181 card in order to fight in San Jose.

You can watch that KOTY candidate here:

Kevin Jones of The Main Event on Double T 97.3 FM in Lubbock and MMA Latest News spoke with Derek Campos within hours of the announcement and the veteran of 12 Bellator fights, and former King of the Cage Junior Welterweight Champion, was not sweating the switch:

“Doesn’t phase me, I’m still gonna go to the WinStar and take care of business against Girtz. My goal is to get the title, and now Girtz is in my way. I’ll do what must be done to get the victory.”

This will be the third meeting between the two men who both share wrestling backgrounds but have shown a pension to stand and bang rather than take their opponents to the ground. The first meeting ended in with a unanimous decision victory for Girtz at Bellator 96 in 2013 in a bout that marked only the second Bellator appearance for both fighters. A rematch was originally scheduled for Bellator 113 in 2014 but those plans changed when the promoters decided to move Girtz into a fight which he lost via knockout against Derek Anderson, the last man that Campos beat on his current 3 fight win streak. A rematch did finally take place at Bellator 146 in November of 2015. In that rematch Girtz put a stop to Campos’ plans for redemption before the Texan ever had a chance to get into his groove, knocking him out just 37 seconds into the first round. That was the last time Campos tasted defeat inside of Bellator’s octagon. Girtz has yet to win a contest since that KO victory, dropping decisions to both 40 fight veteran Fernando Gonzalez and white-hot prospect Adam Piccolitte, a fighter who Campos has also voiced his interest in fighting.

Watch their second fight here: http://bellator.spike.com/fight/dvnibt/bellator-146-derek-campos-vs-brandon-girtz

The event also features the Bellator debut of former UFC strawweight Valerie Letourneau and the main card debut of Bantamweight knockout artist Steve “Mean Machine” Garcia who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Garcia takes on a familiar face to the Thackerville crowd and Bellator fans, former two-division champ Michael Chandler.

Also on this truly stacked card is undefeated former Legacy FC Middleweight Champion and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Ace Rafael Lovato Jr., the always game Justin Lawerence, UFC vet and TUF season 3 winner Kendell “Da Spyda” Grove and hard hitting Portuguese Andre Fialho, who has never seen a fight go the distance.

Below is a full list of the fights at Bellator 181:

  • 155lbs- Derek Campos (18-6) vs. Brandon Girtz (14-6)
  • 185lbs- Kendall Grove (23-16) vs. John Salter (13-3)
  • 125lbs- Valerie Letourneau (8-6) vs. Emily Ducote (5-2)
  • 135lbs- Joe Warren (14-6) vs. Steve Garcia (7-1)
  • 145lbs- Justin Lawrence (9-4) vs. Treston Thomison (10-5)
  • 170lbs- Andre Fialho (7-1) vs. AJ Matthews (8-6)
  • 145lbs- Alexis Dufresne (6-3) vs. Amanda Bell (4-4)
  • 265lbs- Javy Ayala (10-5) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (5-1)
  • 185lbs- Rafael Lovato Jr (5-0) vs. Mike Rhodes (10-4)

WinStar, which sits about 70 miles North of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area, is a fantastic venue to watch fights. There is literally not a bad seat inside of their ballroom, and both video and table games are only a short walk away from where all the MMA action takes place. If you are not a gambler you can be sure to get your money’s worth at the all you can eat buffet which serves King Crab legs. So if you can make it to the area there is a lot more to enjoy than just a great night of the fights. If you can not make it to Southern Oklahoma you can always tune in LIVE on Spike TV starting at 9:00 PM CST. The prelims will air on bellator.com starting at 6:00 PM CST.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.

The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.

This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.

Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

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