McGuire: Bellator MMA to Debut at Madison Square Garden

News broke this week from various sources that the UFC’s chief competitor will put on their first event in New York, Bellator: NYC, at the historic Madison Square Garden on June 24. It will be just the second time in company history that an event takes place on pay-per-view and part of a double-header with Bellator 180 taking place for free on Spike the same day.

Main Event: Wanderlei Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

Chael Sonnen’s Bellator “legends a**-whipping tour” didn’t start out as he’d hoped when he lost to Tito Ortiz by rear-naked choke in just over two minutes going into Ortiz’s second retirement from MMA in January. He’s hoping to change his fortunes against Wanderlei Silva. Silva became a part of Bellator on March 2, 2016, but has largely been doing promotional work to this point.

The now 40-year-old “Axe Murderer” hasn’t competed in over four years since his main-event KO of “The All-American” Brian Stann in Japan in 2013. Silva had been in retirement prior to joining Bellator after the UFC released him from his contract. Before his release, Silva had received a lifetime-turned-three-year ban from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for refusing to take a pre-UFC 175 drug test.

Silva was set to compete in Japan for Rizin Fighting Federation on December 29th in the Rizin open-weight tournament quarterfinals but expectedly withdrew from the fight earlier in the month for undisclosed reasons.

Co-Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione 

Originally thought to take place at Bellator 172’s SAP Center, this rebooking of “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko’s Bellator debut follows Matt Mitrione unexpectedly withdrawing on the day of 172 due to kidney stones.

“We always said that when we come to New York, we’ll bring the biggest and the best fight card we’ve ever had in the history of this company,” Bellator President Scott Coker said to the Associated Press. “We’re putting it together, and our roster is robust enough that we feel like it’s time to get into the pay-per-view business, so here we go.”

Lightweight Championship: (C) Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus

Despite overall perfection in MMA at 7-0 (5-0 in Bellator,) Brent Primus return to action will be a tough test. Promotion officials have also confirmed that Primus will challenge Missouri’s “Iron” Michael Chandler for the belt at 155 pounds. Chandler last fought “Smooth” Benson Henderson in November at won by split decision, a performance Chandler was not happy with.

Primus will not have fought in 14 months by the time Bellator 180/ Bellator NYC takes place at “The Garden” in June.  He’s coming off back-to-back decision wins, the last being against Gleristone Santos almost a year ago. Primus made some noise when entered the promotion with three consecutive wins by stoppage.

Welterweight Championship: (C) Douglas Lima vs. Lorenz Larken

In a move just like with the signing of Benson Henderson, recent Bellator signee Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin will get an immediate welterweight (170-pound) championship opportunity in his promotional debut. Larkin has won four of his last five, most recently fighting at UFC 202 and scoring a TKO victory over Neil Magny.

Lima (28-6,) brother to UFC veteran Dhiego Lima, is in the middle of his second reign with the belt after knocking out Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 164 in November. The champion has been with Bellator since its tournament era and will begin his sixth year next month.

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