“There’s a reason we waited to have Bellator as the first MMA show at Caesars,” Caesars Entertainment consultant Ken Condon said Thursday at Caesars. “They’re considered the Rolls Royce of the MMA world and fit in perfectly with the Caesars brand. We’re looking to develop a long-term relationship with them.”
The brainchild of former sports agent/boxing executive Bjorn Rebney, Bellator has a stable of fighters that includes some of the best in the world.
Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard (27-2-1), who will fight in tonight’s main event against Hawaiian Falaniko Vitale (29-9)), is rated 10th in Sherdog.com’s MMA rankings. Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez (fifth), a Philadelphia native, and featherweight titleholder Joe Warren (eighth) are also among the best in their respective weight classes.
“In my opinion, Eddie Alvarez is the best lightweight in the world, even ahead of (Toms River native and UFC champ) Frankie Edgar,” Rebney said Thursday at Caesars.
“And I think Lombard would be a pick ’em fight against (UFC middleweight champ) Anderson Silva.”
Tonight’s card also features three Bellator tournament bouts.
Patricky Pitbull (9-1) will take on Michael Chandler (7-0) in a lightweight final. The winner will get a shot at Alvarez in an upcoming card. Brett Cooper (13-6) will face Alexander Shlemenko (30-5) in a middleweight qualifier. A featherweight qualifier will pit Bryan Goldsby (15-11) against Anthony Morrison (13-10).
“Our tournaments are very simple,” Rebney said. “There’s eight people per weight class and if you win, you go on, and if you lose, you go home. The winner of the tournament gets a shot at one of our world champions.”
The four-fight undercard includes two local fighters: Lacey Township middleweight Jeff Lentz (6-3) and Atlantic City middleweight Giedrius Karavackas (4-1). Lentz, a 2007 Lacey Township High School graduate, will meet Anthony Leone (8-2), of Ithaca, N.Y. Karavackas will face Sam Orepeza (4-1), of Philadelphia.
Doors to the Palladium Ballroom open at 7:30 with the first bout slated for 8 p.m.
“We consider Atlantic City to be the high-water mark for us,” Rebney said. “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, so we waited until now to come here so we could really make sure we’d give a great showing.”