Today the Professional Fighters League (PFL), the fastest-growing and most innovative sports league, held the PFL Champions vs BELLATOR Champions press conference featuring athletes and CEO Peter Murray at the Hard Rock Live in Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood. Today’s press conference comes ahead of the mega-event on Saturday, February 24, from the state-of-the-art Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The PFL Champions vs BELLATOR Champions main event will see reigning PFL Heavyweight Champion Renan Ferreira (12-3) square off against BELLATOR Heavyweight Champion and former BELLATOR Light Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader (31-7). Newly crowned PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Impa Kasanganay (15-3) returns to the middleweight division where he will meet BELLATOR Middleweight Champion Johnny Eblen (14-0).
Two-time PFL Welterweight Champion Ray Cooper III (25-9), who replaced Magomed Magomedkerimov, will collide with Jamaica’s fighting pride, BELLATOR Welterweight Champion Jason Jackson (17-4). PFL Featherweight Champion Jesus Pinedo (23-6-1), the first Peruvian MMA world champion returns to action against reigning BELLATOR Featherweight Champion and former BELLATOR Lightweight Champion Patricio Pitbull (35-7).
Additionally the Pay-Per-View will feature former PFL Heavyweight Champion Bruno Cappelozza (15-6) and former BELLATOR Light Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov (17-2). Two of the sport’s most iconic names will meet in the PFL SmartCage as former title challengers Thiago Santos (22-11) and Yoel Romero (15-7) clash. 2023 PFL Lightweight Championship finalist Clay Collard (24-11) is set to face former BELLATOR Featherweight Champion AJ McKee (21-1).
PFL Champions vs BELLATOR Champions: Assets and Quotes:
Peter Murray: PFL CEO
“There’s a lot of hardware up here. We have PFL Champs versus BELLATOR Champs. This is really an unprecedented event in MMA. Many fans have been talking about this for years. Other promotions have been talking about this as well. I am so proud that on the heels of the BELLATOR acquisition we can now present the very best in MMA. At the end of each year, we will kick off the next season for both PFL and BELLATOR, a major tentpole event which will be PFL Champions vs. BELLATOR Champions. Think of it as MMA’s All-Star Game. This will be long term.”
“We’re certainly paving the way for the next generation of great athletes and champions.”
Renan Ferraira: PFL Heavyweight Champion
“It’s a special moment for the fans and a special moment for the sport. I feel honored to be in the position as the main event to fight against a guy with the credentials that Ryan Bader has. Just excited to get there. You guys know my fighting style, always pressing the action and moving forward. So just excited to put on a great show.
“I’ve been following Bader’s career for a very long time. I’ve watched his fights live. I think he’s a great athlete and his wrestling credentials speak for themself. It’s just a great honor to be facing off against him.
On a potential fight with Frances Ngannou: “I feel like it’s undeniable. If everything goes as planned, yeah, after February 24th Frances is the name. That being said, I’ll do it however he wants to do it. If he wants to do it in MMA, in boxing, we’ll be ready.”
Ryan Bader: BELLATOR Heavyweight Champion
“It’s a huge deal. This doesn’t happen in MMA. Fans want these types of super fights. A lot of organizations don’t want to risk putting their champions out there and have another organization come out and sweep them. I love that we are doing this in Saudi Arabia. The whole card, if you look at it, is stacked. I am ready to claim another belt too. I love it and I’m ready for this huge opportunity.”
On what he expects from Ferreira “I have 40-something fights, he has quite a bit less. I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve stood across from everyone including champions, former champions, and legends of the sport. I’ve been fighting five-round fights for as long as I could remember so I’m proven in that aspect. He’s an amazing fighter and he’s huge. He’s fun to watch. It’s one of those challenges where I need to go in there and dictate what I do. I believe I have the tools. He’s a giant man who will be swinging hard so you never know what will happen.”
Impa Kasanganay: PFL Light Heavyweight Champion
“I respect Johnny and he’s a good fighter and he’s done great work. But for me if you want to be the best you got to fight the best wherever they are at. He’s been the king of the BELLATOR Middleweight division and for me my focus is to be multi-class champion and this is my opportunity to do that. To me, when you see a great fighter across the ring, that’s what gets me going and gets me excited. It’s great opportunity and honor. Fighters fight and that’s what I do.”
Johnny Eblen: BELLATOR Middleweight Champion
“Every win is a win at the end of the day. I don’t focus too much on the caliber of the win. This was an opportunity that was presented to me and I pride myself on always being ready and always willing to fight. Impa’s name popped in and I’m just down to scrap bro. I’m here to get in a fistfight.”
“I just train to get better every day. Impa’s name popped in the hat and I am ready for that challenge. He’s a PFL champion at 205. He’s tough, durable, and a good fighter. I feel like just continuing to win is great and that’s what I am going to continue to do as long as I fight.”
Jesus Pinedo: PFL Featherweight Champion
“Last year was great, and this year is going to be even better. I’m ready to fight Patricio on the 24th and I’m going to win another championship.”
Patricio Pitbull: BELLATOR Featherweight Champion
“I know this is a tough fight but it will be a great victory for me. I am very confident that I will bring this victory back home.”
“I have always asked for cross-promotion as it is very important for this sport. Everyone wants to see who is the best and which champion is the best in the world. Now we have the opportunity to show who is the best.”
Jason Jackson: BELLATOR Welterweight Champion
“First of all I want to thank Ray Cooper making this fight possible because without him, there would not be any fireworks. I am going to beat his ass.”
“Listen to my name. They call me the Ass Kicking Machine. I’m going to deliver on February 24th. I promise that.”
Bruno Cappelozza: Former PFL Heavyweight Champion
“I’ve been following Vadim’s career for quite a long time and we actually fought on a same card once in Japan. I know his strengths and his work and his qualities, but I also know mine. Combine those two and I guarantee we are going to have a great fight on February 24th.
Vadim Nemkov: Former BELLATOR Light Heavyweight Champion
“My plan is to stay at heavyweight because that’s where I’ve been planning to go. If I get any good deals or interesting opponents, I have no problem going back to my previous weight of light heavyweight.”
“As of now my plan is to become the best heavyweight and beat everyone I face. That’s the main goal right now.”
Clay Collard: Former PFL Lightweight Contender
“It’s back to the grindstone for me. I’m just super excited to start this card off and do it right.”
AJ McKee: Former BELLATOR Featherweight Champion
“It’s going to be a great year, 2024 the year of Kobe (Bryant) rest in peace. I have big plans for myself this year. I’m excited to have finished off the end of the independent shows with BELLATOR and now coming full circle to doing a PFL show. The first event being in Saudi Arabia is epic. I am excited to be a part of this so let’s see where this path leads.”
Thiago Santos: Former PFL Light Heavyweight Contender
“Yoel is a legend of this sport and he’s a guy who I’ve always watched. We trained together a long, long time ago when I was beginning, and he was a superstar. So we are kind of friends and there is no bad blood between us. I’m just very happy for the opportunity.”
Yoel Romero: Former BELLATOR Light Heavyweight Contender
“It was a great fight between Santos and Jon Jones. I thought Santos looked great in the fight and that’s what I am expecting come next month.”
“My performances in the cage have been good. I know they are not the results I am looking for but I feel good when I compete and so does my body. While I get older, I am gathering more experience that I can use.”
Claressa Shields: PFL Women’s Lightweight
“There’s a lot of great talent in the PFL. I just want to do my due diligence and train and just win my fights and hopefully I’ll be as great as these guys up here and be able to fight for the PFL Championship and fight for the million dollars. Right now it’s one fight at a time and I want to get back on a winning streak as I lost my last fight by split decision. I just want to keep moving forward. Being able to be a woman and fighting in the first pro MMA bout in Saudi Arabia is a big deal for me and my career. I just want to come back and show that boxers can do MMA and that I have the potential to be a PFL World Champion one day.”
“I wanted to fight Amanda Nunes in a boxing match and when they asked her if she would fight me she said, ‘tell Claressa Shields to come to my world and I’ll choke the s— out of her,’ When I heard her say that it really lit a fire in me. You know what, none of these girls are going to come over from MMA and fight me because they know I’d win, hands down. But it would be a super challenge for me to go over to MMA so I just wanted to challenge myself and show that I’m not just bad ass in boxing, I’m bad ass fighter, period. So why not come over to MMA and just prove myself. So that’s why I’m here even thought a lot of people thought I would just run back to boxing but, hey, here I am. I’m just here to get better and believe in a year or two you I will be fighting for a world title.”
Kelsey DeSantis: BELLATOR Women’s Lightweight
“I have been in MMA for 10 years so when I got the phone call to face Claressa Shields, I was so excited to face such a recognizable name in the sport.”