Michael Chandler’s second title defense will occur approximately a month later than originally expected, as Dave Jansen has withdrawn from their 155-pound championship bout at Bellator 96 due to an ACL injury.
With Jansen sidelined indefinitely, promotion officials announced on Sunday that Chandler will defend his belt against Season 8 lightweight tournament champion David Rickels at Bellator 97 on July 31 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M. It is the second title bout to be featured on the card: Welterweight ruler Ben Askren will defend his 170-pound crown against Andrey Koreshkov that same evening.
Bellator 96, which takes place at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., on June 19, will now be headlined by a light heavyweight tournament matchup pitting former Strikeforce titlist Muhammed Lawal against UFC veteran Seth Petruzelli.
“It was just sort of a freak injury that happened in grappling, I heard a pop and after visiting the doctor, my fears were confirmed,” Jansen said in a release. “It’s really devastating to me knowing I was so close to getting my shot, but I talked to (Bellator CEO) Bjorn (Rebney) and the Bellator team, and they confirmed I’ll be getting my title shot when I’m healthy and ready to go, so I’m going to recover and train as hard as I ever have, and hopefully when I get back into the cage it’s more rewarding than ever.”
Jansen earned his shot at Chandler by beating Magomed Saadulaev, Ricardo Tirloni and Marcin Held to win the promotion’s Season 7 lightweight bracket. The Sports Lab representative has won six straight fights since exiting the WEC on the heels of back-to-back losses to Kamal Shalorus and Ricardo Lamas.
Rickels, meanwhile, made it as far as the Season 6 semifinals as a welterweight before electing to try his hand at 155 pounds. The move paid off for “The Caveman” as he defeated Lloyd Woodard, Jason Fischer and Saad Awad to win Bellator’s Season 8 lightweight tournament.
“I’m already back in the gym getting ready for the biggest test of my career,” Rickels said. “I was prepared for another few months off with Jansen already in line for his title shot, but when I got the news I was pumped because I got to enjoy myself for a while after the tournament, but now I’m ready to fight for that belt. Chandler is going to bring a huge challenge, but I know I need to focus on my takedown defense, and just push the pace. I’ve got to hurt Mike early, let him know I’m not playing around. I think he fights off of confidence more than anything else, so I’m looking to put a lot of doubt into his head early in this fight. Either way, I just can’t wait until July 31.”