Cris Cyborg has big news coming her way at Bellator 228, but Josh Barnett and Canada will have to wait a little longer.
Los Angeles, CA — Big things are brewing for some of Bellator’s newest free agents, and at least one of them should be announced Saturday at Bellator 228. That would be news on Cris Cyborg’s debut, widely expected to come against featherweight champion Julia Budd.
When asked ahead of this weekend’s show, which sees the continuation of the featherweight grand prix, about Cyborg, Bellator CEO Scott Coker responded by saying “You’ll have to tune in on Saturday, we have an announcement to make.”
The news wasn’t quite as good for Josh Barnett, who has been chomping at the bit to get back in the cage. Barnett has been linked to a card in Japan. However, said Coker, “the reason we haven’t announced it is, there’s nothing finalized with Japan. If we can get that fight together in Japan, with RIZIN, then we would like him to fight there. It’s kind of like in a holding pattern, seeing if we can get this fight done.”
While there’s definite interest in a fight between Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko, he added, “I don’t think that will be his first fight back.”
As for light heavyweight and heavyweight champ Ryan Bader, a return to 205lbs could be next. “I think fighting the winner of the Gegard [Mousasi, vs. Lyoto Machida] fight, maybe they move up and fight him. Or if he wants to stay at heavyweight, we’ll have a fight for him.”
Bader saw his heavyweight title defense against Cheick Kongo end in a no contest due to an accidental eye poke earlier this month.
One big question that always comes up when talking with Coker is when Bellator will return to Canada. It’s been five years since their last visit, and they have two Canadian champions in Rory MacDonald and Julia Budd. Not to mention other Canadian athletes on the roster, including the recently signed Lance Gibson Jr., Budd’s stepson.
“I feel really good about going to Canada and doing something in Vancouver, not just for Julia, but I think there’s a bunch of talented fighters there,” Coker said of the prospect of a trip up north.
The media aren’t the only ones asking. “Rory’s asking me when we’re going to go up. It’s really a scheduling issue and a venue issue. Because the venues there are booked up, and then our schedule gets booked up, and we just haven’t been able to put it together.”
Blame Canada. Or at least Canada’s pastime. “There’s an appetite for mixed martial arts,” Coker admitted when it comes to the Great White North. “But there’s so many hockey dates that are booked for the arena, concerts, it’s not an easy venue to get into.”
To be fair to Coker, UFC exec David Shaw has echoed those comments when discussing scheduling his own promotion’s dates there. Still, the UFC heads to Canada three times a year, like clockwork. It’s a market Bellator would be wise to get into.
Watch the full Bellator 228 media day press scrum with Scott Coker above!