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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - FLORIDA: The Professional Fighters League on Wednesday announced the lineup for the PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions event that will take place on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh.
The main bout will see reigning PFL heavyweight champion Renan Ferreira (12-3) square off against Bellator’s heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (31-7).
“There’s a lot of hardware up here. We have PFL champs versus Bellator champs,” said Peter Murray, the PFL’s CEO. “This is really an unprecedented event in MMA. Many fans have been talking about this for years. Other promotions have been talking about this as well.
“I am so proud that on the heels of the Bellator acquisition we can now present the very best in MMA. At the end of each year, we will kick off the next season for both PFL and Bellator, a major tentpole event which will be PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions. Think of it as MMA’s All-Star Game. This will be long term.”
“We’re certainly paving the way for the next generation of great athletes and champions.”
The PFL’s heavyweight champion Ferreira said: “It’s a special moment for the fans and a special moment for the sport. I feel honored to be in the position as the main event to fight against a guy with the credentials that Ryan Bader has.
“Just excited to get there. You guys know my fighting style, always pressing the action and moving forward. So just excited to put on a great show.”
He added: “I’ve been following Bader’s career for a very long time. I’ve watched his fights live. I think he’s a great athlete and his wrestling credentials speak for themself. It’s just a great honor to be facing off against him.”
On a potential fight with Frances Ngannou, Ferreira said: “I feel like it’s undeniable. If everything goes as planned, yeah, after February 24th Frances is the name. That being said, I’ll do it however he wants to do it. If he wants to do it in MMA, in boxing, we’ll be ready.”
Bader commented: “I have 40-something fights, he has quite a bit less. I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve stood across from everyone including champions, former champions, and legends of the sport. I’ve been fighting five-round fights for as long as I could remember so I’m proven in that aspect.
“He’s an amazing fighter and he’s huge. He’s fun to watch. It’s one of those challenges where I need to go in there and dictate what I do. I believe I have the tools. He’s a giant man who will be swinging hard so you never know what will happen.”
Newly crowned PFL light heavyweight champion Impa Kasanganay (15-3) returns to the middleweight division where he will meet Bellator middleweight champion Johnny Eblen (14-0).
“I respect Johnny and he’s a good fighter and he’s done great work,” Kasanganay said. “But for me if you want to be the best you got to fight the best wherever they are at. He’s been the king of the Bellator middleweight division and for me my focus is to be multi-class champion and this is my opportunity to do that. To me, when you see a great fighter across the ring, that’s what gets me going and gets me excited. It’s a great opportunity and honor. Fighters fight and that’s what I do.”
Two-time PFL welterweight champion Ray Cooper III (25-9), who replaced Magomed Magomedkerimov, will collide with Bellator welterweight champion Jason Jackson (17-4). The PFL’s featherweight champion Jesus Pinedo (23-6-1), the first Peruvian MMA world champion, takes on reigning Bellator featherweight champion and former lightweight champion Patricio Pitbull (35-7).
Two of the sport’s most iconic names will meet in the PFL SmartCage as former title challengers Thiago Santos (22-11) and Yoel Romero (15-7) clash.
The 2023 PFL lightweight championship finalist Clay Collard (24-11) is set to face former Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee (21-1).
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