Bellator Fighting Championships returns to the Event Center at L’Auberge du Lac in Lake Charles on Saturday, Oct. 1. Tickets remain on sale at L’Auberge or buy online at ticketmaster.com  or charge-by-phone by calling (800) 745-3000. Prices are $75 and $50. The event is restricted to those aged 21 years and upward. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and first fight begins at 6 p.m.
Nine fights are scheduled for Bellator 52 and four will be shown live on MTV2. Those four are quarterfinal bouts in the heavyweight tournament as one of these eight fighters will move on and have a chance to face Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad (8-0).
Those four fights are Ron “The Monster” Sparks (7-0) vs. Mark Holata (11-2), Eric “American Soldier” Prindle (7-1) vs. Abe “Hurricane” Wagner (10-4), Thiago “Big Monster” Santos (8-1) vs. Blagoi Ivanov (4-0) and Neil “Goliath” Grove (11-3-1) vs. Mike “300” Hayes (15-4-1).
“The knockout percentages with these eight fighters are really high and every single one of them swing for the fences,” said Bjorn Rebney, CEO of Bellator.
Santos will not only be making his Bellator debut, it will also be his first fight in the United States.
“Santos has fought at a very high level and his ground game is spectacular,” said Rebney of the fighter from Brazil. “He is a stand-up fighter who will try to knock your head of first, but has a great ground game. A lot of fighters from Brazil who are now fighting in Bellator are looking for a knockout. You see that from the Pitbull brothers, Rene Nazare and Eduardo Dantas, who last week executed at 24-foot flying knee. The fight scene in Brazil is changing. Ten years ago, it meant they had a great ground game and a good enough stand up to survive. Now, they are the most exciting and explosive fighters in mixed martial arts.”
Grove is likely the favorite due to the fact he is 3-1 in Bellator and his lone loss came to champion Cole Konrad last year at Bellator 32.
According to Rebney, the dark house is Prindle. “He is so big and powerful, he is almost like a cartoon character of himself,” he said. “In his last fight for us, he won by TKO in the second round. He has five All-Army boxing championships behind him and he is a major league striker. Eric has to cut some weight to make 265 pounds and he probably has just five percent body weight on him. I don’t know what’s going to happen if Prindle goes to the ground, because I’ve never seen it. That will be an interesting fight with Abe Wagner.”
One thing that makes Bellator an exciting promotion is the tournament style set up.
“There is something on the line in these fights,” said Rebney. “What it does is elevate the level of performance of the athletes who are stepping inside the cage. You win, you move on. You lose? You go home and restructure camp and hope you are re-invited to another tournament six months down the road. The fighters do everything conceivable to finish the fight and move forward. We have been very fortunate to see this every week. It’s the same reason why March Madness is so popular and the NBA when the playoffs start. It becomes more intense.”
Rebney explained that it was obvious to put the tournament structure together some three years ago when Bellator was born in 2008.
“There are lengthy tournaments in Japan, which are called Grand Prix, and in the early days of the UFC, they would do single night tournaments. I thought, let’s have the athletes determine who the best are, so I talked to different doctors and commissioners about timing each fight and it has worked out very well for us.”
The five preliminary fights will be shown exclusively online at spike.com . Those scheduled are featherweights Genair da Silva (10-4) vs. Bryan Goldsby (13-12), lightweights Cosmo Alexandre vs. Josh Quayhagen of Lake Charles, both of which will make their pro MMA debuts, heavyweights Zak Jensen (10-7) vs. Josh Burns (6-4), heavyweights Justin Frazier (4-0) vs. Liron Wilson (9-4) and light heavyweights Matt Van Buren (3-0) vs. Nick Nichols, who will also be making his pro debut inside the cage.
Alexandre (pictured), 29, is a world kickboxing champion from Brazil and will be making his professional debut in Lake Charles.
“We have high hopes for Cosmo,” said Rebney. “He is the complete package. He stands 6-foot-2 and fights at 155 pounds. If you don’t know anything about him, go to YouTube and type in his name and prepare yourself to be amazed. He is an unreal striker and is a type of striker that does not come around often in the world of MMA. Cosmo is an extremely bright guy and speaks four languages.”
Rebney said there is a big upside to signing this caliber of athlete despite have little experience on the ground.
“He understands to survive in MMA, he has to create a ground game,” said Rebney. “What is impressive is the fact he said to us that he knows he needs to improve his ground game so he started working with Rashad Evans and some other talented fighters in Florida. Now this is his pro debut, but if he can get his ground game in line, he is going to be a special fighter. I wouldn’t blink in this fight.”
Quayhagen is from Lake Charles and some locals may remember him fighting at Texas Rage in the Cage amateur event in Beaumont at Ford Arena back in March. He lost to Jordan Morgan via 2nd round submission (triangle choke). I agree with Rebney. This one may not last very long.
Another quality prelim fight will be da Silva and Goldsby. "Goldsby is a great athlete who fought in our featherweight tournament as did Genair," said Rebney. "Genair gave Marlon Sandro, who is one of the top featherweights in the world, a three round war in our Summer Series. This should be a crazy fight in terms of athleticism. We have two tournament competitors going at it on the spike.com  broadcast."
This will be the third time that Bellator has held an event at L’Aubegre du Lac in Lake Charles as Bellator 31 was Sept. 30, 2010, and Bellator 45 was held earlier this year on May 21. Both were sellouts.
“It’s 100 percent quality of the team at L’Auberge,” said Rebney. “The easiest way to say this is — they get it, which makes our production and promotional life seamless. They are a tremendous group of folks to work with. The previous two shows have sold out and this one should be no different. Every time we leave, my team wants to go back. It’s a spectacular resort and people on my production team want to go back and vacation there. All in all, it’s a win-win.”