Bellator 97 has been formally announced to return to the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. The Bellator MMA event will take place on Wednesday July 31st at 4:00 PM. In today’s press conference it was confirmed that eight New Mexico fighters would be fighting on the undercard and while some of the fights were formally announced, there was a few surprises thrown in the mix. Those local bouts are slated for the live Spike.com preliminary broadcast. As previously announced, Bellator Champions Ben Askren and Michael Chandler will defend their title against the promotion’s top challengers. “King Mo” Lawal will duel Jacob Noe for the Light-Heavyweight Tournament.
But this conference was all about the surprises. The first being wrestling phenoms Bubba Jenkins and Will Brooks bringing their talents to New Mexico while facing off with some of our own local MMA veterans. In a lightweight bout, Team Four Corners fighter Chris Leyva will meet up with Will Brooks. The phenom former title contender Brooks will look to right the ship after his first career loss. He will return to the venue that his first loss took place, inside the Santa Ana Star Center which went down in February at Bellator 91. Brooks will be real hungry to get back on the winning track but will meet up with a formidable opponent in Leyva. The 14-fight veteran Leyva has been in the cage with Joe Riggs and the UFC’s Tim Means.
Bubba Jenkins is considered one of the premier talents in the sport and is arguably the best blue chip prospect Bellator MMA has signed on the roster. He is still very new to MMA but has already had the superstar treatment from MMA media. His opponent, Albuquerque’s Mike Barreras is several ways a question mark because his last fight was in 2009. In that same year, Barreras took the UFC’s Isaac Vallie-Flagg to a three round decision.
Maybe the biggest news from the press conference was the announcement that Frank Baca of FIT NHB, will enter into the Bellator bantamweight tournament. New York’s Team Bombsquad product Anthony Leone will be Baca’s first opponent and he was last seen defeating former Bellator Champion Zach Makovsky. Baca has been absent since late-2012 fighting for the King of the Cage promotion where was the long time 135-pound champion. Baca is one of the most successful regional fighters in the state and his entrance to the tournament is one of the biggest opportunities any of our local fighters have received this year.
The heavily anticipated bout between Judgement MMA’s Adrian Cruz and Mean 1 MMA’s Felipe Chavez was formally announced. Other fights officially named, a local match ups between Richard Jacques and Javier Palacios and Frank Baca’s FIT NHB teammate Donald Sanchez will be action fighting Cliff Wright Jr. The last local bout features Mean 1 MMA’s Steve Garcia pairing with prospect Shawn Funch.
Bellator Lightweight World Title Fight: Michael Chandler (11-0) vs. David Rickels (14-1)
Bellator Welterweight World Title Fight: Ben Askren (11-0) vs. Andrey Koreschkov (13-0)
Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament Final: King Mo (10-2) vs. Jacob Noe (12-2)
Bellator Heavyweight Tournament Final: Ryan Martinez (10-2) vs. Vitaly Minakov (11-0)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Rob Emerson (12-10) vs. Patricio Pitbull (17-2)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Cris Leyva (9-5) vs. Will Brooks (9-1)
Bantamweight Tournament Semifinals: Rafael Silva (19-3) vs. Rodrigo Lima (11-1)
Bantamweight Tournament Semifinals: Anthony Leone (12-5) vs. Frank Baca (16-2)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Mike Barreras (5-6) vs. Bubba Jenkins (3-0)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Javier Palacios (1-0) vs. Richard Jacques (1-0)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Jeremy Kimball (9-3) vs. Keith Berry (15-10)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Adrian Cruz (4-0) vs. Felipe Chavez (5-3)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Steve Garcia (1-0) vs. Shawn Bunch (1-0)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Cliff Wright Jr. (7-4) vs. Donald Sanchez (28-13)