Bellator MMA will mark its return to Madison Square Garden on Friday night with a stacked card featuring championship bouts in the welterweight and bantamweight divisions.
Rory MacDonald is set to defend his belt against Neiman Gracie at 170 pounds after drawing with Jon Fitch in a their Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix quarterfinal back in April. As the current champion, “The Red King” proceeded into the next round. Gracie qualified for his semifinal spot by beating Ed Ruth by submission back in December in Hawaii at Bellator 213.
Bellator MMA President Scott Coker understands the importance of hosting an event at MSG and as a contingency; he announced that he had asked Fitch to be a backup fighter in case either MacDonald or Gracie pulled out of the fight.
At the Bellator 222 media scrum, Coker went into more detail of his decision to enlist Fitch and have him weigh in as a potential replacement.
“So here’s what the situation with Jon Fitch was,” Coker said. “I think Jon’s going to come to New York and he will be here in case there’s an injury to either side. So we wanted to have a backup for either side of the bracket just in case there was an injury. So for instance, if Neiman was hurt it would’ve been Fitch against Rory again. Or if Rory was hurt then we’d have a backup because we didn’t want the tournament to have a hiccup where there was no fight. So we basically worked something out with Fitch to continue to train, continue to be ready and basically worked something out with him to be a standby in case one of the fighters got hurt.”
MacDonald and Gracie have now officially made the championship weight. Fitch also made weight and is eligible to fight in the main event if either fighter pulls out.
Bellator 222 in Madison Square Garden, New York also features a bantamweight fight between the champion Darrion Caldwell and his challenger, Rizin FF champion Kyoji Horiguchi.