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PFL vs. Bellator Fights to Make in 2024

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A huge year is around the corner for the new co-leader in mixed martial arts.

On November 20th, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) broke news that rocked the fighting world. The company, led by President Ray Sefo, announced its acquisition of Bellator MMA, one of the largest organizations in all of combat sports dating back to its founding by Bjorn Rebney in 2008.

Bellator has held a total of 307 events dating back to its first card on April 3rd, 2009, making appearances in eleven different countries and 35 of 50 U.S. states. The company, having been led by current President Scott Coker since his beginning in 2014, also held twelve subsidiary kickboxing events from 2016 to 2019. The final promotional MMA event took place on November 17th with Bellator 301.

The bad news? Bellator, despite possibly having its company title in a few cards next year, will be no more, leaving us only with memories made over the course of its existence. The good news? With rosters essentially combined, the level of athletic competition has taken a boost. PFL 10 2023 took place on Friday night in Washington, D.C. wrapping up its season with six new tournament champions as the large list of Bellator fighters are awaiting their next challenges. How, when, or what fights are going to be made might be unclear at the current time, but the table is currently open for speculation.

With the off-season here and the new year quickly approaching, and in no particular order, here are fifteen PFL vs. Bellator fights to make in 2024.

*PFL fighter listed first, Bellator MMA fighter listed second*

Amanda Serrano vs. Liz Carmouche
– Women’s Flyweight | 125 LBS –

A huge signing for the Professional Fighters League was announced in August with multi-promotional and undisputed World Boxing Champion Amanda Serrano joining the roster. Her time in mixed martial arts has only seen three fights ranging from April of 2018 to June of 2021, and many wonder how soon her return will come. Due to PFL having a smaller list of candidates at the weight class, pickings are slim for crossover bouts. Why not start off with a super fight between one of boxing’s greats and Bellator Flyweight Champion Liz Carmouche? The former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender and three-time defending title holder looks to back up her October of 2023 defense of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. There is no better test for Carmouche in the striking department and for Serrano in the grappling realm if the two were to square off.

Kayla Harrison vs. Cat Zingano
– Women’s Featherweight | 145 LBS –

Fighting in a catchweight fight at PFL’s 2023 finale saw Kayla Harrison return to MMA for the first time in over a year taking a dominant, three-round unanimous decision over Aspen Ladd. Although she called out a to-be-named Bellator great, the fight likely will not be her next as she lost in last year’s PFL tournament final to another to-be-named opponent. Harrison’s next challenge could likely be #2-ranked Bellator featherweight Cat Zingano who sits near the divisional peak and just had a four-fight win streak snapped in October. At 41 years of age, Zingano’s opportunities could be running out, so match her wrestling versus Harrison’s Judo in a pairing for the grappling fans.

Larissa Pacheco vs. Cris Cyborg
– Women’s Featherweight | 145 LBS –

Hinted in the above fight suggestion sees Larissa Pacheco fresh off her capturing of the PFL Featherweight Tournament Championship over Marina Mokhnatkina. This, along with her 2022 finals victory of the aforementioned Kayla Harrison, put the well-rounded talent in contention as one of the greatest female and all-around MMA fighters in the world. Pacheco’s next fight is likely to be opposite former Strikeforce, Invicta FC, UFC, and current Bellator Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg who has won all but two of her 30 professional bouts in MMA (excluding one ‘No Contest’). The dangerous finisher earned her fifth defense of the title over the aforementioned Cat Zingano last month, and the timing would be perfect for a battle between the two Brazilian greats.

Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Adam Borics
– Featherweight | 145 LBS –

2021 PFL Champion at 145 pounds saw Movlid Khaybulaev, although originally seeded in the Playoffs, unable to defend his title in 2022 due to injury or this year after personal conflict. The undefeated Russian has yet to face defeat as a professional, and with a return right around the corner, now would be the time to schedule a fight against Adam Borics in a possible title eliminator. Borics had his four-fight run of victories end in October of last year and has yet to make an MMA return in 2023, so with the Kill Cliff FC Hungarian talent and Khaybulaev itching to get back into the cage, pair the two opposite one another sometime next year.

Jesus Pinedo vs. Patricio Pitbull
– Featherweight | 145 LBS –

Early stoppage or not, Jesus Pinedo proved he is the real deal. In a rematch months removed from his sixth loss as a pro, the 27-year-old connected and finished opponent Gabriel Alves Braga to secure the Featherweight title following an impressive run across three fights since June. Watching cage side were many Bellator champions including Patricio Pitbull who, although having back-to-back losses, comes in as the organization’s Featherweight Champion. A fan-favorite veteran and athlete he has been competing for Bellator since 2010, having he take on Pinedo would come as either a sign that experience reigns supreme or a changing of the guards at 145 pounds.

Natan Schulte vs. A.J. McKee
– Lightweight | 155 LBS –

Natan Schulte was removed from this year’s PFL Tournament after failing to engage in a June fight with friend Raush Manfio. This came as a massive shock for fight fans despite the American Top Team’s seasoned experience as a two-time PFL Tournament victor in both 2018 and 2019. Schulte, however, is one of the most dangerous 155-pounders on the roster, and his eventual return could come against former Bellator Featherweight title holder A.J. McKee. Son of former competitor Antonio McKee, the 28-year-old out of California has won three in-a-row since moving up from featherweight after his one-and-only pro loss last year to the aforementioned Patricio Pitbull. The winner between Schulte and McKee can be awarded a title shot for the pairing in our next fight suggestion.

Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Usman Nurmagomedov
– Lightweight | 155 LBS –

“Two-time Champion” sure does sound nice. Montreal’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier took the unanimous decision over Clay Collard in the Lightweight finals on Friday night; his tenth consecutive win since dropping three straight fights in his tenure-ending experience with the UFC. Now, Aubin-Mercier can prepare for his next fight against Bellator Lightweight Champion Usman Nurmagomedov. The growing Russian talent at 25, training alongside the likes of his cousin Khabib Nurmagomedov and Eagles MMA company, has yet to face defeat with 17 victories since March of 2017. Although his last defense over Brent Primus was overturned, he remains one of the best across all athletes in the division. On paper, Aubin-Mercier versus Nurmagomedov looks like a great test for both elite grapplers.

Cedric Doumbe vs. Yaroslav Amosov
– Welterweight | 170 LBS –

After an opportunity for a career in the UFC fell short, multi-organizational Champion and current Glory Kickboxing World Champion Cedric Doumbe landed in a new home. The standup threat made the switch to MMA in mid-2021 and has not looked back securing an undefeated run of five knockouts including in his September promotional debut at PFL Europe 3. A step up in competition is warranted, and a major test could be with Bellator’s Yaroslav Amosov. The Ukrainian Sambo specialist saw his 27 straight professional wins snapped last week causing his undefeated run to be no more. It could potentially be too big of a step in competition for Doumbe, but why not see what happens?

Magomed Umalatov vs. Logan Storley
– Welterweight | 170 LBS –

Another fighter forced out of this year’s PFL Tournament saw Magomed Umalatov, due to personal reasons, removed from the welterweight bracket. Unfortunate it was after looking to a sure threat for the Championship, but the undefeated Russian hopes to make the new year a big one. In another fight opportunity for grapplers, he could likely be the next challenge for Logan Storley. A former NCAA Division I wrestler out of the University of Minnesota and a former interim Bellator Welterweight title holder, Storley has only faced defeat twice with both losses opposite the aforementioned Yaroslav Amosov rebounding in August with a second-round finish of Brennan Ward. An impressive finish performance from either Umalatov or Storley could be the ticket towards 170-pound gold.

Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Jason Jackson
– Welterweight | 170 LBS –

2018 PFL Welterweight Champion Magomed Magomedkerimov claimed his second title with his third-round guillotine of Sadibou Sy on Friday night. With wins in 19 of his last 20 MMA appearances, the Russian continues to standout as one of 170 pounds’ best around. Another competitor sitting aside the ring saw Jamaica’s Jason Jackson who, at Bellator 301, extended his win streak to seven in-a-row by taking the Welterweight Championship over Yaroslav Amosov with a jaw-dropping knockout in the second round. High caliber athleticism would be on display if he and Magomedkerimov get to showcase their abilities against each other.

Derek Brunson vs. Johnny Eblen
– Middleweight | 185 LBS –

Derek Brunson overcame early adversity to find his hand raised in his three-round PFL debut over Ray Cooper III by unanimous decision. His first fight after a 21-octagon run with the UFC whilst snapping a two-fight skid, Brunson comes as another fighter at 39 years old who could be nearing the final bouts of his MMA career. Undefeated Bellator Middleweight Champion Johnny Eblen asked for the victor of the night’s fight, and it appears he will get his wish. The former NCAA Division I wrestler took Bellator’s 185-pound title in June of 2022 and earned two defenses over Anatoly Tokov and Fabian Edwards in February and September of this year, respectively. Can Brunson finally secure a championship he has long aspired to achieve, or will Eblen further his dominant run amongst a new crop of competition?

Rob Wilkinson vs. Corey Anderson
– Light Heavyweight | 205 LBS –

Currently sidelined with a nine-month suspension is light heavyweight’s Rob Wilkinson who was met with two positive drug tests earlier this year. A return for the 2021 PFL Welterweight Champion could come approximately in the spring of 2024, dependent on when he resumes training as he takes the remainder of the year off for self-reflection following his admitted mistake. Wilkinson remains one of the division’s most fearful threats at 205 pounds, and a title eliminator could be in stake if partnered up against Corey Anderson. The former UFC notable and Bellator title challenger only contested once this year earning a split decision over Phil Davis. Anderson’s wrestling on display against Wilkinson’s striking makes for an intriguing matchup and test for the two gold belt hopefuls.

Impa Kasanganay vs. Vadim Nemkov
– Light Heavyweight | 205 LBS –

What an incredible career turnaround it has been for Impa Kasanganay. After being released in late-2021 from the UFC including a highlight-reel promotional loss to Joaquim Buckley as well as an Eagle FC loss in early 2022, the Florida native has rebounded with six consecutive victories including his capturing of PFL’s Light Heavyweight Tournament Championship and the one-million dollar cash prize. Kasanganay unquestionably has earned the right to a meeting with Vadim Nemkov. The five-time defending Bellator Champion has not lost since the spring of 2016 and has beat the likes of many greats across recent MMA history; most recently, his June decision of Yoel Romero. No easy road it would be for either man, but the test would be Kasanganay’s toughest yet as well as Nemkov’s youngest opponent in his last twelve fights.

Francis Ngannou vs. Linton Vassell
– Heavyweight | 265 LBS –

In PFL’s largest signing in company history, it was announced that Francis Ngannou would be joining the roster as well in preparation for a 2024 promotional debut. This came after his 14-fight tenure with the UFC; one that saw his reign as Heavyweight Champion come to an end following the expiration of his contract. Ngannou stands as one of the best strikers in the world proving so in his October split decision loss to WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury, moving to a tenth-place organizational ranking. He, however, will likely not receive a title fight first but a probable eliminator matchup. Former two-time Bellator Light Heavyweight title challenger Linton Vassell has moved up to heavyweight and amassed five wins in-a-row including four by way knockout and two in his most recent cage appearances over Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldvasky. Is there hope for a Vassell upset of the ages, or would Ngannou further prove his arguable status as the all-time greatest MMA heavyweight?

Renan Ferreira vs. Ryan Bader
– Heavyweight | 265 LBS –

In Friday’s co-main event, Renan Ferreira finished off the likes of Denis Goltsov to claim the PFL Heavyweight Tournament title. The win was his third of the year and his tenth professional by way of knockout in twelve victories dating back to his pro-MMA beginnings in 2013. Ferreira’s championship status will give him rights to fight former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner, and current three-time defending Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader. A meeting this upcoming year would put us likely over a year removed from his last fight which saw a first-round rematch knockout over Fedor Emelianenko; his third-straight defense since 2022.

The anticipation for a fight between Ferreira and Ryan Bader, as well as many others previously-mentioned, will remain high throughout the off-season leading us into what can only be a massive 2024 for the Professional Fighters League.

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Wesley Riddle is a 29-year-old writer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina and from Harrisonburg, Virginia. Watching the draw between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard from 2011 sparked his interest in the sport of mixed martial arts. He created "All That MMA" on Twitter, which came to birth in December of 2013. He would join with MMASucka in the later quarter of 2016. Some of Riddle's hobbies include music, playing golf, watching horror movies, and working with non-profit organizations throughout his community. You can follow him on Twitter at @AllThatMMA or @WesleyRiddleMMA, and on Instagram @WesleyRiddle.

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