Sergio Pettis Defeats Ricky Bandejas in Bellator MMA’s Return After Five Months

Sergio Pettis is proving to be a contender…

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican and Mexican American mixed martial artist, the  younger brother of former UFC champion Anthony Pettis, defeated Ricky Bandejas via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) this weekend in the bantamweight main event of Bellator 242.

Sergio Pettis

Bellator, the second-most prominent MMA promotion in the U.S. after the UFC, hadn’t held an event since February 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The card took place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, overseen by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation

COVID-19 protocols were implemented, including multiple coronavirus tests and the keeping of fighters, corners and staff within a kind of bubble at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino.

The original Bellator 242 main event was supposed to be a bout for the bantamweight title between Juan Archuleta and Patrick Mix, but Archuleta withdrew. The expectation is that bout will be rebooked for the belt.

During his fight, Pettis put himself in the No. 1 contender conversation. He had an economical performance against Bandejas, outstriking the taller man and piling on the calf kicks through the first two rounds. At one point, Bandejas seemed to lose his footing due to the damage caused by those repeated kicks to the lower part of his left leg.

In the third round, both men opened up. Pettis wasn’t content to cruise to a decision and put forth several flashy techniques, clearly looking for a knockout. Pettis threw spinning kicks, and Bandejas came back with some of his own, including a wheel kick to the head that was just barely blocked by Pettis. Pettis threw another spinning kick with seconds remaining that narrowly missed as well.

Pettis (20-5) has won three straight, including his first two in Bellator. The Milwaukee native left the UFC as a free agent last year with a 9-5 record in the organization, going back and forth between flyweight and bantamweight. Pettis owns a victory over Joseph Benavidez, who just fought for the UFC flyweight title last weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Bandejas (13-4) had a two-fight winning streak snapped. The New Jersey native propelled himself up the Bellator bantamweight ladder in 2018 when he stunningly knocked out Conor McGregor protégé James Gallagher. Bandejas, 28, trains out of the vaunted American Top Team in Florida.

Cris Cyborg Signs with Bellator MMA 

Cristiane Justino is taking her fight elsewhere…

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist, better known as Cris Cyborg, has signed with Bellator MMA after a three-year run with the Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC).

Cris Cyborg

One of the best women’s fighters in the history of the sport is now under a multiyear, multi-bout contract with Bellator, promotion president Scott Coker announced via Twitter. Coker wrote that it was the biggest contract ever given to a women’s MMA fighter.

Cyborg accompanied Bellator’s announcement with a video message to her fans on Facebook.

“My goal is to become the only female fighter to hold four different major titles in the same division,” said Cyborg, who has already held the women’s featherweight title in the UFC, Strikeforce and Invicta FC.

The final fight on Cyborg’s UFC contract came against Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 in July, a bout Cyborg won via unanimous decision. 

The fighter and UFC president Dana Whitehave had a long history of butting heads, and White said in the aftermath of that bout the UFC was out of the Cyborg business. The UFC waived its 90-day exclusive negotiating window with the Brazilian knockout artist, making her a free agent.

Cyborg, who is No. 3 pound-for-pound among women in ESPN‘s MMA rankings, won the UFC women’s featherweight title by beating Tonya Evinger by third-round TKO at UFC 214 in July 2017. She dropped the belt to Amanda Nunes, also the UFC’s women’s bantamweight champ, at UFC 232 last December via first-round knockout. That defeat was Cyborg’s first in 13 years, since her pro MMA debut in 2005.

From 2005 until 2018, Cyborg was the most dominating and fearsome force in women’s mixed martial arts. Justino went undefeated and won 17 of 20 victories by finish. Cyborg has beaten the likes of Holly HolmMarloes Coenen and Gina Carano. Historically, she has also been one of the best-known women’s MMA fighters in the world, drawing solid numbers on television and pay-per-view.

“I have worked with countless athletes over my 30-plus years of promoting combat sports, but there is no one quite like Cyborg,” said Coker, who promoted Justino with Strikeforce. “Her ability to excite the crowd from the moment she makes her walk to the cage is special, and having had the pleasure of promoting several of her fights in the past, I am looking forward to the opportunity of promoting her once again. Cyborg is the most dominant female fighter in the history of the sport and she will be a perfect fit here at Bellator, where champion Julia Budd and the other women that make up best female featherweight division in the world have eagerly awaited her arrival.”

Cyborg was brought into the UFC in 2016 at a catchweight of 140 pounds. She had competed previously at 145 pounds, a more natural weight. The idea at the time was to set up a fight between Cyborg and Ronda Rousey, but it never materialized. Cyborg was too big to get down to Rousey’s 135-pound weight class and Rousey departed the UFC later in 2016.

Cyborg and the UFC had an embattled relationship even before Cyborg was under contract. In 2014, White infamously made fun of Cyborg for her appearance at an MMA awards show, saying she looked like male fighter Wanderlei Silva in a dress. Cyborg took it as White saying she looked like a man; White has said that he was making a comment on Cyborg’s past history with performance-enhancing drugs. Cyborg tested positive for a steroid and was stripped of her Strikeforce title in 2011.

After Nunes beat Cyborg last December, White repeatedly said Cyborg didn’t want a rematch, which Cyborg vehemently denied. Meanwhile, Cyborg said she felt the UFC never truly built out a women’s featherweight division in which she could compete, which was a valid criticism.

On Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show in July, Cyborg said she wanted a public apology from White as a condition of her re-signing with the UFC.

“Of course, he has to apologize,” Justino said. “I think he has family, he has kids. … I don’t know if he has a heart, but I think one thing he’s doing is not just touching me, because he doesn’t like me. He’s touching the people around me, he’s touching my family. It’s not right.”

The rocky relationship came to an end in earnest after UFC 240 when Cyborg’s team posted a doctored video online that inaccurately quoted White in subtitles while talking to Cyborg backstage in Edmonton, Alberta. Cyborg apologized on social media, but White said in an interview on the UFC’s YouTube channel that the promotion was done with Cyborg.

“I’m going to release her from her contract and I will not match any offers [she receives],” White said. “She is free and clear to go to Bellator or any of these other promotions and fight these easy fights she wants. Done. Done deal. I will literally, today, have my lawyer draft a letter to [Justino’s team saying] that she is free and clear.”

In the Bellator release announcing her signing, it makes note of the promotion’s healthy women’s featherweight division, including Budd, who has won 11 straight.

Alvarez to Fight Conor McGregor to Retain His UFC Lightweight Title

Eddie Alvarez is preparing for a highly anticipated Big Apple bout…

The 32-year-old half-Puerto Rican mixed martial artist and current UFC Lightweight Champion will face off against Conor McGregor in the lightweight championship headline UFC 205 bout on November 12 at Madison Square Garden.

Eddie Alvarez

UFC officials confirmed the 155-pound title fight to ESPN on Monday. The UFC 205 pay-per-view is historic because it marks the promotion’s first trip to New York since a 1997 ban on professional mixed martial arts was lifted earlier this year.

McGregor (20-3), the current featherweight champion, will attempt to join BJ Penn and Randy Couture as the only fighters in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes. Per UFC president Dana White, McGregor will retain his featherweight championship through UFC 205, meaning he has the chance to become the first ever to hold those belts simultaneously.

“This is the fight the fans wanted, and I’m excited that our very first event at Madison Square Garden will be headlined by Eddie Alvarez defending the lightweight title against Conor McGregor,” White told ESPN. “This card has three world title fights and is the best card in UFC history.”

Alvarez (28-4) won the title in a first-round knockout over Rafael dos Anjos in July. The Philadelphia native also has held a 155-pound title in Bellator MMA. Alvarez publicly campaigned for a fight against McGregor, even though White briefly targeted a bout between Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Alvarez Officially Joins the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Eddie Alvarez is making a big switch…

The 30-year-old half-Puerto Rican mixed martial artist is joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Eddie Alvarez

Bellator MMA president Scott Coker has confirmed to ESPN.com the promotion has granted the two-time and former Bellator Lightweight Champion his unconditional release.

Later UFC president Dana White announced via Twitter that Alvarez had signed with the UFC and will fight Donald Cerrone in the co-main event of UFC 178 on September 27 in Las Vegas.

Cerrone (24-6) was previously scheduled to fight Bobby Green on the same date, but switches to Alvarez instead.

Alvarez (25-3) vacates Bellator’s 155-pound title, which he won in a split decision victory against Michael Chandler at Bellator 106 in November. The company has no future matching rights on Alvarez, according to Coker.

“We granted Eddie his unconditional release this morning,” Coker told ESPN.com. “Eddie is free to explore the free-agent market. We wish him the best in the future.”

Alvarez, who appeared in the inaugural Bellator event in April 2009 and won the title later that year, provided the following statement to ESPN.com via text message.

“This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with,” Alvarez said. “I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for the time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009 and have been involved in some really amazing fights.

“The staff there always treated me great and I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter of my career.”