A Bellator vs. ONE Cross-Promotion Dream
Lately on Twitter, Bellator Welterweight Champion Rory MacDonald and recently retied ONE Welterweight Champion Ben Askren have been trading verbal jabs at one another.
It all started with Marco Polo. Twitter user @mmarcopoloo tweeted out a side-by-side image of Askren and MacDonald, captioning the picture, “who would win”. He then wrote, “i (sic) see u want champ vs champ. how about @benaskren??”
— marco polo (@mmarcopoloo) April 18, 2018
MacDonald was quick to respond, saying “I’m good with that to (sic).”
im good with that to
— Rory MacDonald (@rory_macdonald) April 18, 2018
Askren quickly fired back with a retort of his own, daring MacDonald to “Tell [his] boss.”
Tell your boss https://t.co/Qp1SAuISiS
— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) April 18, 2018
The war of words continued to escalate, but the real developments came from the ‘bosses’ themselves. Bellator’s official Twitter account chimed in, and Scott Coker, Bellator’s president, is reported interested.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 19, 2018
Per a conversation today with Scott Coker, Bellator has spoken to Ben Askren about a potential fight with Rory MacDonald. Coker loves Rory's enthusiasm for it, but there are some challenges with Askren's contractual status. They'll explore it, but hurdles to clear.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 20, 2018
Chatri Sityodtong, the founder of ONE, chimed in, as well. Sityodtong is interested in the idea, and since Askren is (apparently) still under contract with ONE, his approval is necessary.
I am open to doing a World Champion vs World Champion fight between Ben Askren and Rory MacDonald. I have big respect and deep admiration for both athletes. If the fans want it, let's make it happen! @ScottCoker @Benaskren @rory_macdonald
— Chatri Sityodtong (@YODCHATRI) April 21, 2018
With a superfight between MacDonald and Askren closer than ever, fans got to thinking: what else is possible? MMA Twitter legend, @Grabaka_Hitman, weighed in.
While we're at it, can you throw in Bibiano Fernandes vs. Darrion Caldwell? https://t.co/oG8I3dmlR3
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) April 21, 2018
Bellator’s bantamweight champion, Darrion Caldwell, defended his title in dominant fashion last month with a first round submission of Leandro Higo. Having beaten a who’s who of the Bellator bantamweight division, a fresh opponent could be intriguing.
In the spirit of the Bellator vs. ONE cross-promotion, what if Caldwell faced Bibiano Fernandes? Fernandes (22-3) is riding a fourteen-fight win streak. He has eight straight title defenses, most recently defeating featherweight and lightweight champion, Martin Nguyen.
Arguably two of the top bantamweights outside the UFC, a matchup between these promotional posterboys could be one of the best fights possible.
But of course, we couldn’t stop there. What other matchups could we put together in a cross-promotional super card? The aforementioned Martin Nguyen vs. Patrício Freire is a Fight of the Night waiting to happen.
Nguyen (10-2), had his impressive six-fight win streak halted by Fernandes in his bid to become a three-weight world champion (!), but what a streak it was! Of the six wins, none went past the second round, and all were exciting finishes (5 KOs, 1 SUB).
A match with “Pitbull” Freire would be fireworks. Freire (26-4) is a two-time Bellator champion, most recently submitting Daniel Straus in the second round last year. The Brazilian star has nine knockouts and eleven submissions to his name, and is one of the promotion’s longtime staples.
If we want to get really creative, there’s one another fight that could be made in this hypothetical co-promoted event: Brandon Vera, the ONE heavyweight champion, vs. Fedor Emelianenko.
Vera, 40, is on a three-fight winning streak since signing with ONE. All three of those wins have come by first round (T)KO. The former UFC star has clearly had a resurgence, and an eye-popping opponent for Vera could be Fedor himself.
Emelianenko, while he is not the Bellator Heavyweight Champion, is one of the greatest to ever compete. Vera and “The Last Emperor” never met in the cage (or ring), as they fought in separate promotions for all of their respective careers.
Emelianenko picked up a massive first round knockout over Frank Mir this past weekend. With the win, he’ll advance in the Heavyweight Grand Prix and face Chael Sonnen. In this fantasy co-promoted event, two legends of the sport clashing in the heavyweight division could well be icing on the cake.
For the final matchup of the card, two jiu jitsu wizards take their talents to the cage. Both Garry Tonon and Dillon Danis have made their MMA debuts of late, and the storylines for this one only get better.
Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon is a black belt at the Renzo Gracie Academy. A member of the Danaher Death Squad, Tonon has competed and won at various events, from EBI to ADCC to Polaris. The jiu jitsu star successfully won his debut at ONE, showcasing his newfound striking en route to a second round TKO.
Danis, 24, made his MMA debut this past weekend, defeating Kyle Walker by first round toe-hold. The Marcelo Garcia product took gold at the IBJFF Pan American Championships in 2016. In addition, Danis has gained fame by being one of Conor McGregor’s primary training partners.
Danis and Tonon have already fought twice in BJJ. In their first matchup, Garry Tonon secured a heelhook win at the 2015 ADCC. They met later at Polaris in 2017, where Tonon won again, this time by referee’s decision.
The two also have a heated rivalry. Danis has feuded with the entirety of the Danaher Death Squad, and has faced Gordon Ryan, a teammate of Tonon’s.
A trilogy in the cage could make all the sense in the world if this cross-promoted event ever happened.
Here’s to hoping this super event has a chance of happening! If it did, what would you be willing to pay for it?
Bellator vs. ONE: Who Reigns Supreme?
- Rory MacDonald vs. Ben Askren (welterweight)
- Patrício Freire vs. Martin Nguyen (featherweight)
- Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brandon Vera (heavyweight)
- Darrion Caldwell vs. Bibiano Fernandes (bantamweight)
- Dillon Danis vs. Garry Tonon (lightweight/welterweight)