Bellator 207 Under the Radar: Mandel Nallo

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Prior to every event, Under the Radar will cast the spotlight on an up-and-coming talent who shows the potential for growth in their division and isn’t getting enough attention as they head into battle.

  • Name: Mandel Nallo
  • Record: 6-0 overall, 1-0 Bellator MMA
  • Division: Lightweight
  • Team: Tristar Gym

Every gym has those guys that the people in the gym talk about as future contenders; emerging talents who haven’t had a showcase opportunity yet, but carry the potential to make an instant impact as soon as they get their chance.

If you talk to enough coaches and fighters, you learn to squirrel away those names for safe keeping because eventually, the time will come when that name pops up on the radar and you know to pay attention.

Mandel Nallo is one of those names.

Training out of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, the 29-year-old lightweight’s name would pop up in conversations with Firas Zahabi, the team’s head coach, and various fighters from the gym who compete in and around the same weight class.

Like many Canadian hopefuls, opportunities have been few and far between from Nallo as the grassroots MMA scene in the Great White North has struggled to sustain itself. A regional promotion tends to thrive on showcasing fighters from its base region and with the scene in Quebec struggling and Nallo’s reputation as a tough out preceding him, booking fights has been tough.

It’s the same situation that Aiemann Zahabi battled during the early stages of his professional career and one that many top young talents encounter, but even signing with Bellator MMA hasn’t exactly kept the unbeaten Canadian ultra-active.

Nallo made his promotional debut last December, knocking out Alec Williams with a head kick just 18 seconds into the opening round, setting a new promotional record for the fastest knockout in the history of the lightweight division. Not only did the victory push Nallo’s record to 6-0 with six finishes, but it stood out as one of the best performances of the night on a card that was heavy on decisions.

Unfortunately, it has taken another 10 months to get Nallo back in the cage, however the undefeated upstart gets another chance to make a major impression this weekend when he takes on Carrington Banks in the opening fight of Friday’s Bellator 207 main card.

Fans of The Ultimate Fighter might remember Banks as a member of the Blackzilians squad that went head-to-head with their South Florida rivals from American Top Team on Season 21 of the UFC’s long-running reality TV competition, where he registered a surprising decision win over Sabah Homasi, but was never selected to compete again.

The 29-year-old wrestler made his way to Bellator MMA, where he snagged decision wins in each of his first three appearances before suffering the first loss of his career last time out at Bellator 199 against Adam Piccolotti.

Though they sport comparable records, Banks has faced toughest competition to date than Nallo, which is what makes this opportunity so intriguing for the Tristar product. The lightweight division is one of the deepest weight classes on the Bellator roster and breaking through into the top tier of talent takes big wins and strong performances and this is Nallo’s chance to potentially collect both.

While beating Banks wouldn’t necessarily put him into the thick of the title chase, it would go a long way towards establishing the undefeated finisher as the top emerging talent in the division, which would – in theory – open up avenues for even more opportunities in 2019.

Competing on this packed Bellator MMA weekend and kicking off the main card on Friday night are both big boosts for Nallo as well. With no UFC event scheduled, the weekend belongs to Bellator MMA and while preliminary card performances can often pass by without much fanfare, there is no way that an electric showing similar to his promotional debut in the kickoff to the main card on Friday night would go unnoticed.

Nallo is someone Canadian fight fans (and journalists) have been waiting to see more from for a couple years now and the opportunity is finally here.

We’ll be watching and you should be too.