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Bellator MMA is heading back to San Jose, California, in September with a card headlined by a heavyweight championship showdown.
The organization announced Thursday via press release that Ryan Bader (27-5) will defend his heavyweight strap for the first time against Cheick Kongo (30-10-2) at the SAP Center in San Jose on Sept. 7. Additionally, the promotion announced that the Featherweight World Grand Prix will begin at this event, although participants for the card will be named at a later date.
Bader won heavyweight gold to become a simultaneous two-division champion by winning the heavyweight tournament, beating Muhammed Lawal, Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko in a little over eight months. While his 35-second finish of Emelianenko ranks among the top ten finishes in Bellator at heavyweight, his 15-second drubbing of Lawal is second only to Eddie Sanchez over Jay White in 10 seconds in 2009. "Darth" is also currently the Bellator light heavyweight titleholder, although he has not competed in the division since 2017, when he stopped Linton Vassell at Bellator 186.
Kongo holds more victories (12) in the Bellator heavyweight division than any other fighter by far. The Frenchman is currently riding an unprecedented eight-fight win streak dating back to 2015, and he has won more fights in a row at heavyweight than any other fighter in the division's history has in total wins. Kongo is coming off of a huge upset win in a rematch against Vitaly Minakov, where he beat the -570 favorite by decision. Much to the chagrin of the entire Sherdog Staff Pick ‘Em League, every staff member picked Minakov to defeat Kongo at Bellator 216, earning a new award we dubbed "The Big Whiff."
Bellator 226 will take place on Sept. 7 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.