Bellator Announces First Two Match-ups for LW Grand Prix
By press release
BELLATOR MMA announced today that the launch of its highly-anticipated, one-million-dollar BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix will kick off on Friday, March 10, when the promotion returns to SAP Center at San Jose. Newly crowned Lightweight World Champion and No. 7 pound-for-pound talent Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) will defend his belt against former UFC Lightweight Champion and No. 3-ranked Benson “Smooth” Henderson (30-11) in the main event.
BELLATOR 292: Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson will air LIVE on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
Also scheduled, No. 2-ranked knockout artist Tofiq Musayev (20-4) will clash with No. 4-ranked Alexander “Peresvet” Shabliy (22-3) in what promises to be a thrilling striking affair. Both bouts will serve as opening round matchups for the BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, and all World Grand Prix matchups are scheduled for five, five-minute rounds.
BELLATOR bantamweights Josh Hill (21-5) and Cass Bell (6-2), as well as heavyweights Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) vs. Sean Tucker (1-3) have been announced for the preliminary portion of the event, which will air live at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV.
Tickets for the event go on sale Friday, Jan. 13, and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or Bellator.com. A special presale is slated for Jan. 11 and 12.
The 24-year-old Nurmagomedov has looked simply sensational through his first five outings under the BELLATOR banner, capping off his successful run at the lightweight title by dethroning Patricky “Pitbull” in a masterful unanimous decision shutout at BELLATOR 288 this past November. The dynamic finisher became BELLATOR’s first Dagestani champion with the victory, an accomplishment sure to add to the legacy of Nurmagomedov’s cousin, MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, and uncle, renowned trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. Despite the daunting shoes left for him to fill, Usman Nurmagomedov has done exactly that thus far in his burgeoning MMA career. Nurmagomedov now enters the one-million-dollar BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, where he will have to defend his title three consecutive times to emerge victorious and collect the million-dollar grand prize.
Henderson, 39, is a former UFC and WEC lightweight champion in the midst of making one last run at the BELLATOR title that has twice eluded him before. “Smooth” has long been one of the sport’s most recognizable figures, and his well-rounded skill set has seen him thrive at the highest levels of the sport for close to two decades. Henderson’s 17-year career includes wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Frankie Edgar, Patricio Pitbull, and many others. Now, he hopes to add Usman Nurmagomedov’s name to his impressive resume in San Jose on March 10. The MMA Lab product has looked like his vintage self in recent months, defeating No. 7-ranked Islam Mamedov and No. 9-ranked Peter Queally in consecutive outings to earn this title shot against Nurmagomedov.
Tofiq Musayev will make his sophomore appearance, aiming to build upon a stunning, short-notice, 27-second knockout of Sidney Outlaw in his BELLATOR debut. The 33-year-old has developed a reputation as a fearsome power-puncher while competing internationally, scoring 16 knockouts in his 20 professional victories. Representing Azerbaijan, the No. 2-ranked lightweight contender already holds wins over two of the Grand Prix competitors in Outlaw and former title holder Patricky “Pitbull,” whom Musayev defeated at RIZIN 20 to become the RIZIN Fighting Federation Lightweight Champion in 2019. Musayev has his eyes set on one goal — capturing the BELLATOR Lightweight Championship — and the road to Musayev’s title aspirations will have to take him through Russia’s Alexander Shabliy, a decorated striker in his own right.
Equally eager to earn a coveted title shot will be No. 4-ranked Shabliy, a Russian striking specialist who believes the time for his run at the BELLATOR Lightweight Championship is now. The 29-year-old Shabliy has been perfect through his first three fights under the BELLATOR banner, scoring wins over Alfie Davis and Bobby King before notching his signature win with the promotion, a second-round knockout of former champion Brent Primus at BELLATOR 282. Shabliy has honed his skills further at the prestigious American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, training alongside MMA superstars like BELLATOR Middleweight Champion Johnny Eblen and others. “Peresvet” will look to showcase his skills on March 10 when he squares off with Tofiq Musayev in this marquee opening round Grand Prix matchup.
# # #
BELLATOR 292: NURMAGOMEDOV VS. HENDERSON MAIN CARD:
Friday, March 10 — 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT
Lightweight World Championship Main Event: C-Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) vs. #3-Benson Henderson (30-11)
Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal: #2-Tofiq Musayev (20-4) vs. #4-Alexander Shabliy (22-3)
BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | Pluto TV
7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
Bantamweight Bout: Josh Hill (21-5) vs. Cass Bell (6-2)
Heavyweight Bout: Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) vs. Sean Tucker (1-3)
Middleweight Bout: Theo Haig (1-0) vs. Adam Wamsley (2-2)