Superfights ideally pit two champions against each other in their respective primes.
And in MMA, those clashes have been far and few between, with seemingly none of them being remotely competitive.
We’ve seen then-UFC welterweight Georges St-Pierre pummel then-lightweight titleholder BJ Penn at UFC 94 to the point that his corner told the referee to stop the fight. St-Pierre also dominated Michael Bisping last November to win the middleweight title and most recently, this past July, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier knocked out Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight strap at UFC 226.
Perhaps the best superfight of all time is about is to happen at Bellator 206 on Saturday night, when welterweight champion Rory MacDonald challenges middleweight kingpin Gegard Mousasi, live and exclusively on DAZN.
When initially asked, Mousasi thought his clash with MacDonald was high on the list of mega bouts. But as he rattled some clashes off, Mousasi came to the belief that considering where they are currently positioned at this stage of their careers, this superfight is arguably at the top of the food chain.
“Definitely one of the best,” Mousasi told Sporting News. “Like GSP vs. Michael Bisping (UFC 217), that wasn’t the two best guys fighting each other. GSP is over his prime and Michael Bisping wasn’t the best middleweight at that time. Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic, that was close. This one is one of the best because we are in our primes. Rory is already the welterweight champion of the world and almost a world champion in the UFC. I almost fought for the belt (in UFC). Now, we are both champions in Bellator. I would definitely say yes.”
Mousasi (44-6-2) captured the middleweight strap by stopping Rafael Carvalho in the first round at Bellator 200 back in May. Talk of a battle between Mousasi and MacDonald sparked immediately after that.
Bellator president Scott Coker had been reluctant to book it, but both fighters kept badgering him until he gave up and cemented the first champion vs. champion bout in the promotion’s history. The Dutch fighter knows what a victory over MacDonald would do for his career.
“He said he wanted to come up to middleweight and wanted to eventually fight me,” Mousasi offered. “Some reporter asked me if I wanted to fight Rory and I said, ‘yes.’ If I fight Rory, of course my title is on the line, but everyone knows Rory MacDonald. If I fight some other guy and if I win, there’s not too much to gain. They aren’t going to recognize it. If I beat Rory, that’s a big name to have on my list as a victory. It’s all about name recognition and making the big fights.”
The perception in MMA circles has been the UFC is the lead promotion when it comes to making those big fights and Bellator is a very distant second. But Bellator has started to inch closer since bringing Coker into the fold in June 2014. Under his leadership, Bellator has signed big names such as Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen to make a splash and put everyone on notice. They’ll clash in Bellator 208 at NYCB LIVE’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. on Oct. 13.
Coker has also gone on to lure top contenders and former UFC champions to the promotion such as Mousasi, MacDonald and Lyoto Machida. Those moves have helped solidify Bellator and put it on the verge of giving the UFC a run for its money over MMA supremacy.
“They don’t need to be No. 1. Being a solid, strong No. 2 is good,” Mousasi explained about Bellator’s position. “The fighters have choices now. They have another place to go besides the UFC. People need the option to go on the free market and see what they are really worth. It’s a good thing for the fighters in general that Bellator is doing so well. Some of the big names have come over like Matt Mitrione, Ryan Bader, Rory MacDonald, me, Machida, Wanderlei (Silva), Quinton Jackson. You name it.”
And he fully expects Bellator to keep its pressure on the UFC.
“Bellator is going to compete with the UFC, sooner or later. Obviously, it’s going to take some time. But with those big names and the new talent that are coming up, the welterweight tournament, the heavyweight tournament is still going — a lot of people are going to take notice of Bellator. I think Bellator is more open to things like tournaments, big fights. It’s easier.”
Mousasi also thinks the promotion is in great hands under Coker’s guidance and leadership.
“Scott Coker knows what he’s doing,” he continued. “I think the thing with the UFC now is not so many great cards. You have some title fights that aren’t too interesting. The cards are not that great anymore. I think Bellator is doing better to be honest. There are more big names fighting each other. UFC still has big fights, but it hasn’t been so great lately since the new owners.”
Many feel Bellator 206 is the best card in company history, with Mousasi vs. MacDonald being the best fight that the company could put together at this point.
While “The Dreamcatcher” understands the significance of the show and everything around it, he feels this fight will MacDonald will exceed expectations.
“I felt pressure heading into the (Alexander) Shlemenko fight since it was my Bellator debut,” Mousasi said about the October 2017 bout, which he won by unanimous decision. “I was a little more aggressive than I usually am. I was expecting a lot from myself considering how I came in. The pressure is actually off for me. I think it will make a difference coming in relaxed to just come in, fight and win. I feel confident and feel like I can make it a real exciting fight out of it. I definitely don’t think this fight is going to be boring.”