Grappling fans may want to ensure they have Saturday night freed up on their schedule. After all, that’s the night that will see former UFC standout and WSOF/PFL welterweight champ Jon Fitch take on Bellator welterweight title challenger Neiman Gracie. It all goes down on Bellator 246, and for fans of chess matches on the mat, it’s a promising match-up.
Fitch, of course, has been around forever. Neiman Gracie (9-1) carries the legendary Gracie name, but recognizes his opponent’s profile, without a doubt. A win at Bellator 246, he told Cageside Press during this week’s media day, “I think it’s pretty special for me, it’s pretty nice because I’ve been watching [Jon Fitch] for a long time. I kind of knew we were going to fight at [some point] in my career.”
Gracie pointed out that when he started out, Fitch was already at the pinnacle of the sport. “My first or second fight, he was the main event of the card. When I was starting to fight, he was already at the top,” he said. “It took a couple years for us to meet each other, and I think it couldn’t be better. This is the best time to meet him.”
Before you scoff at that, consider that even in his 40s, Fitch has been winning. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since 2014, and is 5-0-1 in his last six bouts. The draw came in a welterweight title bout with Rory MacDonald, during the Bellator welterweight grand prix.
Training camps during the pandemic era have been notoriously difficult for some mixed martial artists. Not for Neiman Gracie, however. “I would say it was actually a better experience this time. Because I had the gym just for me,” he revealed. “I kind of did what the boxing guys do, where they have a camp just for them.”
“Everything was focused on me,” he continued. “I think that was a great experience, and I think I’m in one of the best shapes, mentally, physically, and spiritually, of my career.”
Gracie has been on the shelf for over a year, healing up from a broken hand. Were it up to him, he would have fought sooner. “That injury was a little troubled, it took a while to heal. Then they scheduled me in June, and all this madness started happening. So it didn’t happen when I wanted it to happen, I wanted to come back earlier. But it is what it is, I’m very grateful to be back right now.”
Bellator 246 takes place this Saturday, September 12 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The event airs live on Paramount Network.