PFL vs Bellator event marks emphatic Saudi entry into MMA

Renan Ferreira (left) will fight Ryan Bader in a champion vs champion bout (@pflmma via Instagram)

A fight card pitting champions from the Professional Fighters League against champions from Bellator has been announced, and will take place in Saudi Arabia on 24 February.

The news comes after the Professional Fighters League (PFL) acquired Bellator in November, three months after receiving investment from Saudi Arabia.

February’s card marks the gulf state’s first major MMA event. The card will be topped by four PFL champion vs Bellator champion fights: Renan Ferreira vs Ryan Bader at heavyweight; light-heavyweight Impa Kasanganay vs middleweight Johnny Eblen in the latter’s division; Jesus Pinedo vs Patricio Pitbull at featherweight; and Magomed Magomedkerimov vs Jason Jackson at welterweight.

Boxing world champion Claressa Shields will return to MMA to feature on the card, while Yoel Romero, Thiago Santos, Vadim Nemkov, AJ McKee and Aaron Pico are among the other names competing. Furthermore, Biaggo Ali Walsh, grandson of boxing great Muhammad Ali, will make his professional MMA debut.

The UFC was scheduled to stage a card in Saudi Arabia on 2 March, but the event will reportedly be pushed back to June. According to MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, that is due to the state’s displeasure with the profile of bouts that were scheduled for the Fight Night.

The UFC is expected to organise a stronger card in June, potentially even a pay-per-view event.

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