It’s not easy to be number 2. You are usually overlooked, forgotten about, relegated to the background. But from time to time the second violin of the orchestra comes out under the bright light on the central stage and shows its skills.

There are several opportunities for Bellator MMA to grab attention this fall. It all starts on Saturday when the greatest champion in Bellator history, Patricio Freire, defends his belt. That same night, the promotion’s most famous homegrown star, AJ McKee, tries to conquer a new domain. And in less than two months, one of the company’s most valuable importers, Corey Anderson, had the opportunity to prove he was the best light heavyweight in the world, regardless of promotion.

- Advertisement -

Add it all up and Bellator dynamics have never been better.

- Advertisement -

When Scott Cocker took over in 2014, there were few stars in Bellator, so the promotion was geared towards points based on character, with results mixed at best. However, in recent years, Cocker has used the formula he built on ten years earlier to make Strikeforce a respected venue for high-level fighting.

- Advertisement -

net result? Bellator has some of the best fighters in the world at any weight class and athletes in their prime. Yes, the roster isn’t as rich in talent as the UFC, but Bellator is putting together monthly events based on big fights.

Between now and the end of 2022, there are four Bellator fight maps, three of which are title fights. The first-class run kicks off this weekend with Bellator 286 in Long Beach, Calif., where “Pitbull” Freire defends his featherweight championship against Adam Boriks (Saturday, 10pm ET, Showtime).

But this isn’t the only blue-chip bout on the Bellator roster this fall. Here are five title fights to look forward to before the end of the year, and a few other interesting competitions.

Title fights

Men’s Featherweight Championship: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (c) vs. Adam Borix.

Bellator 286, Saturday, Long Beach, California.

Freire is in his third reign as 145lb champion. He was a two-weight champion before vacating the lightweight title last year to make way for the champion aspirations of his older brother Patricky, who now owns the belt. But it was Patricio who brought the Freire family much of the glory of Bellator. His 21 round cage victories are the most in company history, as is his 11 wins in Bellator title fights. Pitbull is a member of the Bellator royal family. And on Saturday, the 35-year-old Brazilian will face the rightful contender for the throne. Borix is ​​on an 18-1 four-fight winning streak after his only loss to former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell. Freire is about to fight.

Light Heavyweight Championship: Vadim Nemkov (c) vs. Corey Anderson 2

Bellator 288, November 18, Chicago

Anderson is a contender, but only technically. When the two met in April, Anderson was in complete control and sought to topple the Russian champion. But an accidental clash of heads opened a wound on Nemkov’s forehead and he was unable to continue the fight, making the fight a no contest. Can Nemkov make the necessary adjustments to extend his dominance in this rematch? Or is Anderson destined to become a champion and perhaps even claim the title of the greatest 205-pound boxer on the planet? Before joining Bellator two years ago, Anderson defeated a pair of former UFC champions, Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. There aren’t many fighters outside of the UFC who can legitimately prove they’re the best in the world. This guy might be one of them.

Lightweight Championship: Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (c) vs. Usman Nurmagomedov

Bellator 288, November 18, Chicago

As if it’s not confusing enough that the older Freire shares the same nickname as his brother, Patricki now owns the same championship belt as Patricio last year. This Freire became champion in November, and his first title defense comes against the undefeated cousin of retired UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Along with the family ties associated with this confrontation, there is also a strong possibility that judges will not be needed. Nurmagomedov has completed his last three fights and eight of his previous nine. Freire covered the distance in just one of his last six victories.

Interim Bantamweight Championship: Raufeon Stots (c) vs. Danny Sabatello

Bellator 289, December 8, Uncasville, Connecticut

Stots was scheduled to challenge Sergio Pettis for the 135-pound belt in April, but Pettis had to pull out due to an injury that required surgery. So Stots fought and won the interim belt that he will now defend in the fight, which is also the semi-finals of the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix. (The other semi-final, which sees Patchi Mix fighting Magomed Magomedov, is on the same fight card.) Stots and Sabatello can both wrestle and both can talk. This makes the message loud and clear: preparation can be as much fun as combat.

Women’s Flyweight: Liz Carmouche (c) vs. Juliana Velasquez 2

Bellator 289, December 8, Uncasville, Connecticut

Velasquez is 12-1, with the only loss in April when Carmouche took the 125-pound title with a fourth-round TKO. For Carmouche, this victory was the fourth in a row since she came to Bellator after losing a UFC title fight to Valentina Shevchenko in 2019. first female fight in UFC history. Now, the fighter known as “Rilla Girl” is looking to add even more Bellator honors to his personal history.

The best of the rest

Lightweight: AJ McKee vs. Spike Carlisle

Bellator 286, Saturday, Long Beach, California.

McKee is a former featherweight champion who toppled Patricio Freire last year with a submission choke submission in less than two minutes. But the Pitbull retaliated in April by regaining the belt, winning the rematch by unanimous decision – the only loss of McKee’s career. Trilogy time? No, it’s time to change. “I’ve been at 145 pounds for years and years and years dropping a lot of weight,” McKee, 27, who fought 18-1 in his career all-out in Bellator, said on the night of Freire’s loss. “[Move to] 155, why not? Faster, stronger, bigger – yes, I’ll release this beast, monster style, baby.”

Men’s Featherweight: Aaron Pico vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Bellator 286, Saturday, Long Beach, California.

Is Pico Still Promising? This label was placed on him before his Bellator debut in 2017, which was his professional debut. And then the touted Pico, the 2014 U.S. National Junior Champion, lost that first fight in 24 seconds. He bounced back, completing four straight first round finishes before losing two fights in a row, and after a short skid, he went on to pick up another six wins in a row. At the age of 26, where does Pico fit in his career? We’ll find out in this fight as Kennedy (17-3, 1 NC) is a step up in the competition from Pico’s recent victories.

Middleweight: Fabian Edwards vs. Charlie Ward

Bellator 287, October 29, Milan, Italy

This fight, the co-main event lightweight bout between Adam Piccolotti and Mansour Barnawi, is honestly no match for the others on this list. But Edwards vs. Ward is here because he has a backstory. Edwards is the younger brother of newly crowned UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards. Like his brother, Fabian scored the biggest win of his career with a first-round knockout of Lyoto Machida in May. Ward is a friend and training partner of Conor McGregor, who famously jumped over the Bellator cage at the 2017 Dublin show to celebrate with Ward and molest referee Mark Goddard. There’s no reason to expect a sideshow next month, but who knows what will happen if Ward’s most famous fan is in the building?