Bellator returns to France and brings along a heavyweight championship fight between Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo as its headliner.
Bader successfully defended his title with a unanimous decision over Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 273 on Saturday night. Moments after his win, promotion officials announced that ‘Darth’ already had his next defense set, and it would be against a familiar face. The No. 2 ranked Kongo then entered the cage for a face-off with the reigning champion, and the rematch was confirmed.
The upcoming event will take place on May 6 in Paris at Accor Arena. Bellator broke ground here as the first major mixed martial arts promotion to hold an event in the country following the legalization of the sport in Jan. 2020.
“Bringing Bellator to France in 2020 was one of the highlights of my career, and I knew that it was the start of a long run of big events in Paris,” said Bellator president Scott Coker in a press release. “Here we are ready for our second trip to France, and this time we are bringing a heavyweight world title rematch featuring arguably the most recognizable French mixed martial artist in our sport’s history. It’s personally important to me to help grow the sport in France and give these athletes a chance to perform on a large stage.”
Coker spoke to assembled media at his post-fight press conference and explained why he went with Bader vs. Kongo II next. The first meeting at Bellator 226 ended in a No Contest once Kongo could not continue after being accidentally poked in the eye by Bader. A second meeting was inevitable because of its controversial ending, and the Bellator president believed now was the time to make it.
There was a belief that Bader would be linked to Fedor Emelianenko again for his retirement fight, but that was not the direction the promotion ultimately went in. However, depending on the outcome of this rematch, Coker said Bader vs. Emelianenko II could still be a possibility in the near future.
“This is a fight that we’ve been putting together for a while,” said Coker (video provided by MMA Fighting). “They fought in San Jose a couple years ago. It was kind of a — I think it was an eye poke or something that was not a very clear decision or winner. So, let’s run it back. We’ve been trying to put that fight on for some time and we had a date in Paris that we wanted to go in May. It’s the week before the fight in London with ‘MVP’ [Michael ‘Venom’ Page] vs. [Yaroslav] Amosov, so we put the fight together.
“We said whoever wins, Moldavsky or Bader, will fight Cheick Kongo,” continued Coker. “Fedor did tell me before the fight, he said, ‘If Ryan Bader wins, I’d really like to fight him for the belt.’ And I said, ‘Well, Kongo is going to fight him in Paris and then we can see what happens.’ But May to July is not a lot of time, we’ll see what happens. This is a very crazy business. You know things change rapidly, it’s a very fluid business, so let’s see what happens.”
This past August, Kongo earned another shot at Bader with a second-round submission over Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 265.