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South Florida is a hotbed (pun intended) of talented MMA fighters, and on Friday, Bellator MMA will showcase some of them.
Former world champions collide as “Iron” Michael Chandler (20-5) of South Florida’s Sanford MMA and Benson “Smooth Bendo” Henderson (28-8) face off once again inside the Bellator cage nearly four years after their first unforgettable meeting.
It’s Bellator 243, and the highly anticipated lightweight main event rematch airs live Friday on Paramount Network and DAZN from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Chandler, fighting out of Deerfield Beach, defeated Henderson via split decision in the first fight.
In the co-main event, Boca Raton’s Matt “Meathead” Mitrione (13-7, 1 NC) of Sanford MMA and Combat Club battles heavyweight Timothy Johnson (13-6) on that main card, which broadcasts starting at 10 p.m.
Highlighting the preliminaries is Boca Raton’s Adam “The Kid” Borics (14-1) also of Sanford MMA via Hungary against featherweight “Magic” Mike Hamel (7-3), who replaces Francis Campos (20-10).
Sanford MMA (formerly Hard Knocks 365) is in Deerfield Beach and Combat Club in Lantana.
American Top Team in Coconut Creek is well represented with two fighters.
Sabah “The Sleek Sheik” Homasi (13-8) of ATT is a main card fighter, fighting Curtis “Curtious” Millender (18-5) in a welterweight bout.
Miami’s “Master” Valerie Loureda (2-0), another from ATT, is featured in the prelims. A flyweight, she competes against Tara “The Tiny Terror” Graff (1-1).
Prelims begin at 6:45 p.m. live on Bellator’s YouTube channel and free Bellator mobile app.
Chandler obtained a college degree in personal finance management services with a minor in real estate from the University of Missouri, where he starred in wrestling as an NCAA Division I All-American.
Here is my audio interview with him.
Mitrione earned a college degree in law and society with minors in supervision and communication from Purdue University, where he excelled in football.
Here is my audio interview with him.
Loureda, a Taekwondo master, is working on a college degree in broadcast journalism at Florida International University in Miami.
Here is my audio interview with her.
Here is my audio interview with Borics.
Because of COVID-19, the Mohegan Sun Arena is closed to the public.
Bellator 243 info/photos/stats
on South Florida fighters
Born: High Ridge, Missouri
Date of Birth: 04/23/1986 – (Age: 34)
Record: 20-5 (8 TKO/KO, 7 Submissions, 5 Decisions)
Weight: 155 lbs. – lightweight; Height: 5-8
Notable wins: Goiti Yamauchi, Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, Patricky “Pitbull” (2x) and Derek Campos
Pro MMA Debut: August 2009
• Three-time Bellator lightweight champion; three successful title defenses
• Participated in three of the most memorable fights in Bellator history; two against Eddie Alvarez and one against Benson Henderson
• Holds the record for most submission victories in Bellator’s lightweight division (6)
• Chandler also holds the record for most stoppage wins in Bellator MMA history (12), most title reigns in Bellator MMA history (3), and most title bouts in Bellator MMA history (10)
Born: Springfield, Illinois
Date of Birth: 07/15/1978 – (Age: 42)
Record: 13-7 (1 NC) (11 Knockouts, 2 Decisions)
Weight: 255 lbs. – heavyweight; Height: 6-3
Notable wins: Roy Nelson, Fedor Emelianenko, Kimbo Slice, Derrick Lewis, and Oli Thompson
Pro MMA Debut: December 5, 2009 (TUF 10 Heavyweights Finale)
College: Played football at Purdue University, where he was roommates with Drew Brees.
• Played in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants, following a successful collegiate career at Purdue University
• Has collected victories in four of his last six contests and seven of his last 11 bouts
• Nine of his past 10 victories have come by way of knockout
• A cast member of The Ultimate Fighter season 10 in 2010 on Spike TV – which also included the late Kimbo Slice
Born: East Brunswick, New Jersey
Date of Birth: 10/19/1988 – (Age 31)
Record: 13-8 (9 wins by KO/TKO, 2 wins by submission, 2 wins by decision)
Weight: 175 lbs. - Welterweight; Height: 6’-0
Made pro MMA debut in May 2009
• Training Partners include Jorge Masvidal, Dustin Poirier, Johnny Eblen, Gleison Tibau, Thiago Alves, Sidney Outlaw
• 11 of 13 wins are by KO or submission
• Six wins via 1st round Knockout
• Three-time UFC veteran
Born: Budapest, Hungary
Date of Birth: 07/07/1993 – (Age: 27)
Record: 14-1 (4 Knockouts, 6 Submissions, 4 Decisions)
Weight: 145 lbs. – featherweight; Height: 5-11
Notable wins: Pat Curran, Aaron Pico, Anthony Taylor, Teodor Nikolov, and Josenaldo Silva
Pro MMA Debut: August 1, 2014
• Training partners include Michael Chandler, Sean Sorriano, Gilbert Burns, Jared Gordon, Jason Jackson
• 10 of his 14 wins have come via KO or submission
• His previous six wins have come via knockout or submission (3 KOs, 3 Subs)
• Flying knee led to all 3 Bellator KO wins
• Thai Boxing World Champion; Hungarian Thai Boxing Champion
Date of Birth: 07/19/1998 – (Age: 22)
Record: 2-0 (1 Knockout)
Weight: 125 lbs. - flyweight; Height: 5-4
Professional Debut: February 16, 2019
• Started her career by defeating Colby Fletcher with a first round TKO at Bellator 216 followed by a victory over Larkyn Dasch at Bellator 222
• Known by many as “Master,” a title given to the most elite Olympic-caliber Taekwondo fighters in the discipline
• Her father has owned Master Frank’s Taekwondo Academy in Miami since 1985
• Her mom, Mily, is also a martial artist and was even testing for her black belt while pregnant with Valerie in 1998
• The former model turned into a kind of surrogate mother and caretaker for her sisters when she was younger, because of her once-ailing mother who deals with acute myeloid leukemia, which at one time had developed up to 90% in her bone marrow.
Bellator will follow-up with two more events from Mohegan Sun Arena. Bellator 244 on Friday, Aug. 21 and Bellator 245 on Friday, Sept. 11.
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YouTube: jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)