Ben Askren will defend his Bellator MMA welterweight title on July 31, when “Funky” puts his title on the line against Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 97.
Bellator officials announced the booking Tuesday, revealing that Bellator 97 will take place at Santa Ana Star Center in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, N.M. The Viacom-owned promotion also revealed that Douglas Lima will collide with Ben Saunders in the delayed Season 8 welterweight tournament final. Lima and Saunders were initially supposed to clash this past March at Bellator 93, but the bout was postponed after Lima broke his hand.
In addition to the aforementioned pairings, Bellator 97 will also see Patricio Freire return to the cage, as the younger “Pitbull” brother squares off with UFC vet Rob Emerson. The July 31 main card airs live on Spike TV, while the preliminary offering streams on Spike.com.
Askren, 28, has never tasted defeat as a professional, winning his first 11 bouts. “Funky” captured the Bellator welterweight title from Lyman Good in 2010 and has defended the belt thrice, most recently pounding out explosive Frenchman Karl Amoussou on Jan. 24 at Bellator 86.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into that cage and putting on a show,” Askren stated in a release. “I feel like I’ve continued to mature and get better in every one of my fights, and July 31 should be no different. I don’t think Andrey has any ability to stop my wrestling and ground attack, so this will be another successful title defense.”
Koreshkov has also compiled a perfect professional ledger, posting 13 consecutive victories to begin his career. Just 22 years old, “Spartan” joined Bellator 14 months ago and earned a pair of victories before triumphing in the Season 7 welterweight draw, besting Jordan Smith, Marius Zaromskis and Good to earn his crack at Askren’s gold.
“I’ll be 110-percent ready for this fight,” Koreshkov said. “I’ll make sure that Askren’s tactics to put everybody in the audience to sleep won’t work this time. Instead, I’ll keep everybody entertained by putting him to sleep.”