Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) will attempt to make the first defense of his lightweight title at Bellator 292 this March. And that fight will come against former UFC champion Benson Henderson (30-11).
Shortly after Bellator CEO Scott Coker announced the launch of the promotion’s lightweight grand prix, promotion officials revealed the first match-ups via press release.
Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson will serve as both a title fight, and one of four quarterfinal bouts in the grand prix. A second quarterfinal match-up will see Tofiq Musayev (20-4) take on Alexander Shabliy (22-3), in the Bellator 292 co-main event.
The card takes place on March 10, 2023 at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA.
Additional fights announced for Bellator 292 see Josh Hill (21-5) face Cass Bell (6-2) at bantamweight, while Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) takes on Sean Tucker (1-3) in a heavyweight scrap. Rounding out the card as it has been announced to date, middleweights Theo Haig (1-0) and Adam Wamsley (2-2) collide.
The focus, however, will be on the lightweights as the launch of the grand prix approaches. Usman Nurmagomedov, cousin of UFC great Khabib Nurmagomedov, won the title this past November, capturing a decision win over Brazil’s Patricky Pitbull to claim his first major title.
Pitbull will also take part in the lightweight grand prix, though no opponent or date has been named for the ex-champ just yet.
Henderson, meanwhile, gets his third shot at gold under the Bellator banner, and second at lightweight. “Smooth” was defeated by Andrey Koreshkov in his promotional debut, in an attempt to claim welterweight gold; two fights later, he lost a split decision against Michael Chandler for the lightweight title.
Heading into Bellator 292, Henderson has won two straight, taking decisions against Islam Mamedov and Peter Queally.
Co-headliner Tofiq Musayev is a former RIZIN lightweight grand prix winner, who won his Bellator MMA debut last year care of a decision against Sidney Outlaw. In Alexander Shabliy, he gets a dangerous Russian foe who remains undefeated in the Bellator cage after three outings.