Bellator’s Summer Series kicks off this Wednesday, June 19 with a stacked card featuring the return of King Mo and War Machine on Spike TV beginning at 7 p.m. (CST) from the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
The televised portion of the card will be headlined by “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal (9-2) vs. Seth “The Silverback” Petruzelli (14-7) in one of two semifinals in Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Tournament. The other semifinal pits veteran Babalu Sobral (37-10) vs. Jacob “The Psycho” Noe (11-2).
The two winners will meet up later this year in the Bellator cage for a chance at $100,000 and a title shot against Attila “Pumukli” Vegh (29-4).
Two other semifinals in Bellator’s Heavyweight Tournament will take place on Spike TV including undefeated Russian Vitaly Minakov (10-0), who has won his last four fights via TKO stoppage, vs. Ron “Monster” Sparks (8-1) and “Rare Breed” Richard Hale (21-5-1) vs. Vinicius Queiroz (6-3).
And how can we forget about the long awaited Bellator debut of War Machine (12-4) who takes on WEC vet Blas Avena (8-6)?
Pre- and post-fight prelims can be viewed online at spike.com beginning at 5 p.m.
LW: Jeremiah O’Neil (12-21) vs. Rapheal Butler (5-0)
Catchwgt: Brandon Girtz (9-2) vs. Derek Campos (9-3)
LHW: Brandon Halsey (3-0) vs. Joe Yager (5-1)
BW: Justin McNally (1-0) vs. Steven Artoff (5-1)
LW: Keith Miner (5-4) vs. Damon Jackson (4-0)
BW: Mike Maldonado (4-0) vs. Chavous Smith (2-3)
FW: Jarrod Card (12-5) vs. Chas Skelly (0-0)
MW: Keith Berry (14-10) vs. Cortez Coleman (9-3)
Don’t forget to watch Bellator’s all-new reality series, Fight Master, featuring coaches Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and former Bellator world champion Joe Warren every Wednesday beginning this week at 9 p.m. (CST) on Spike TV.
I recently spoke with Bellator’s boss Bjorn Rebney about the upcoming Summer Series, Fight Master and the move to Friday Nights in the Fall.
How is King Mo’s mindset going into this bout with Petruzelli?
I’ve been talking to Mo consistently and he seems to be in a really good place. He never got caught up in any kind of emotional drama in the knockout loss to Emanuel (Newton). He got caught with a punch he never saw coming and those are the most dangerous punches. He was literally back in the gym days later. He’s never had a chin issue, so I think he approached it like that. He’s mental state is strong. I was just with him at the Guys Choice Awards and he was laughing and joking with Rampage (Jackson). I anticipate we are going to see a great Mo coming back. Talking with Seth (Petruzelli), I don’t think he has been in better shape for a fight whether it was the Kimbo (Slice) fight on network TV or the fight against Ricco Rodriguez with us.
I’m interested to see how Richard Hale will compete among these other heavyweights in the tournament.
He had a good run for us at light heavyweight, but he is like a completely different fighter now at heavyweight. We tried to put him back into a light heavy after his loss to Christian M’Pumbu, he just could not make 205. It was like risking kidney shutdown. He puts on a show now at heavy.
We finally get to see War Machine in a Bellator cage this Wednesday.
My relationship with him goes back to 2008. I signed him to be in the very first tournament on ESPN Deportes. Before the company even launched on television, we had a promotional agreement. He said some things and ESPN didn’t want him fighting on air, so I had to release him, because at that time that was the only TV deal I had. He has some issues over the last few years and then we signed him and he had to go back to jail. Say what you want to about him or his Twitter feed, but he can really fight. He has a huge heart and is always trying to improve. If he can achieve some level of greatness inside the Bellator cage, this is going to be an amazing story. He has been very solid with us. I want him to do well.
I got a chance to watch the first episode of Fight Master, what were your impressions of how it turned out?
I was on set when we were filming everything and have been a part of the process. It’s like anything you do. If you surround yourself with talented people, and it’s a saying my mom used to say to me, I never clearly understood it until recently. The saying she used to share with me was “strive to not to be the smartest guy in the room.” The people who produced this show are the ones behind 14 Emmy winners, which is for the best reality program on television, The Amazing Race. The folks at Spike are the ones who wrote the book for reality TV as it relates to Mixed Martial Arts. There are great people behind this thing and I hope fans respond positively to it.
What was the thought process behind moving the Bellator series back to Friday nights in September?
It’s a simple answer. When you look at our demo and look to see who watches Bellator, the demographic is who watches Bellator and watches the NFL are almost the same. The NFL is the most power sport juggernaut in television history in the United States. We liked Thursday nights in the Fall, we loved worked with Dixie (Carter) and Impact, but nine weeks we would have went head to head with the NFL and it just didn’t make sense. We gave a lot of thoughts to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We just felt it was the best night to do it on. It doesn’t mean we will be on Friday nights forever, but for the 11 events in the Fall we will be.
Overall thoughts about Bellator’s first season on Spike TV?
I thought it was very good. I thought it was a great first step with Spike. The ratings were strong and the overall audience for the first run and re-run was over 1 million per show. The fights were great and the production quality was high. There are still mountains to climb, but I still thought it was a great first step.