Bellator 246: Neiman Gracie Believes He’s Now Number One Contender at Welterweight

“I think it’s one of the biggest wins of my career.” Simply put, Neiman Gracie is right.

At 31 years old, Gracie, perhaps the best hope the legendary Brazilian family has at a major title currently, is in his prime, firing on all cylinders. He improved to 10-1 on Saturday at Bellator 246, earning a submission over Jon Fitch. Very much a win that’s the best of his caeer. “Jon Fitch is one of the best welterweights of all time. If you like it or not, he is. He beat every welterweight you can imagine. He only lost to champions. So he’s a really tough guy.”

Gracie has also only lost to champions. To one, exactly, in Rory MacDonald during the welterweight grand prix. Fitch marked his first fight back. A broken hand and the coronavirus led to the extended layoff.

If you want to know how tough Jon Fitch, who retired after the fight Saturday, really was, consider this: “The first submission that I had on him, he knee popped, he screamed, but he didn’t tap out,” recounted Gracie. “Second submission, that was very close, he defended well.”

“I’m very happy. It’s been a year that I didn’t fight, so it took a while to get into fight mode, but I’m very happy,” he added.

The question now becomes where a win leaves Gracie, just one fight removed from a title shot. “In my opinion, he [Fitch] was the number one contender. He had a draw against the other champion [Rory MacDonald], which he should have won,” opined Gracie. “So that puts me in the number one spot for sure. If the belt is not the next fight, then I’ll fight anyone that is at the top.”

The belt may not be next. Or it may all come down to timing. First up, welterweight champ Douglas Lima heads to middleweight to try to claim a second title, opposite Gegard Mousasi.

“Lima’s fighting next month, maybe we can do it in December if he comes back down to welterweight,” Gracie suggested.