Bellator MMA's signing of light heavyweight free agent Ryan Bader on Monday might be a major news story, but it's not even the promotion's major announcement of the day.
The Viacom-owned mixed martial arts promotion will stage the second-ever pay-per-view event in the company's history later this year: Bellator 180, headlined by a light heavyweight clash between MMA legend Wanderlei Silva and three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen, is headed to Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 24.
The Associated Press broke the news of Bellator's blockbuster card on Monday afternoon.
"We always said that when we come to New York, we'll bring the biggest and the best fight card we've ever had in the history of this company," Coker told the Associated Press. "We're putting it together, and our roster is robust enough that we feel like it's time to get into the pay-per-view business, so here we go." It will be the first PPV event for the promotion since Coker took over the Bellator reins in June 2014. Under Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney's tenure, the company endeavoured to have Bellator 106 in November 2013 be its first PPV event, headlined by a bout between former UFC light heavyweight champions “Rampage” Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz, but an injury to Ortiz led the bout to be moved to Bellator's cable television partner Spike.
The only previous event offered on PPV by the company was Bellator 120, headlined by Jackson's first bout “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal and featuring Will Brooks' lightweight title upset of Michael Chandler, as well as the aforementioned Ortiz's triumph over former Bellator middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko. Following Bellator 120, Spike President Kevin Kay confirmed that the event drew approximately 100,000 buys, calling media reports of the number “dead-on accurate.”
Bellator 180's slated headliner is not a new fight: Silva and Sonnen coached opposite one another on the third season of the UFC's “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” and were initially set to square off at UFC 173 in May 2014. The bout was then moved to the “TUF: Brazil 3” finale, then UFC 175 in July of that year. The bout never happened: Silva did not submit an application for a fighter's license in the state of Nevada and did not submit to a mandatory pre-fight drug test.
The 39-year-old Sonnen has last four of his last five bouts. After retiring in the wake of his first-round knockout loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 167 in November 2013, “The American Gangster” came out of inactivity in January at Bellator 170, where he was easily submitted by Tito Ortiz.
Silva, 40, has not fought since March 2013, where he knocked out UFC fighter-turned-commentator Brian Stann in a nine-minute barnburner. Since 2007, “The Axe Murderer” is 4-6 in MMA competition.