Bellator officials confirmed plans to return to Connecticut this September to kickoff the Season 11 middleweight tournament at Bellator 123.
Only one fight was announced, as Brennan Ward meets James Irvin in an opening round contest in the tournament. The eight-man field will be completed in coming weeks, along with a main event for the night.
Set for September 5, the card takes place inside the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. The main card airs on Spike TV, with prelims to stream online.
Ward (9-2) is a native of Connecticut and is coming off a submission loss to Alexander Shlemenko for the middleweight title. The defeat snapped a four-fight win streak for the 25-year-old, which included a TKO victory over Mikkel Parlo in the finals of the Season 9 middleweight tournament.
“It’s my time and he had his,” Ward said. “I’ve been putting in the work and this guy is just in my way to getting back to where I need to be. ‘The Sandman’ is going to get planked in the fourth minute of the first round, I’m already calling my shot.”
Since joining Bellator in 2012, Ward has amassed a 5-2 record. His other loss, in 2013 to Aaron Johnson, was also via submission after he was caught in an armbar just 15 seconds into the first round.
Irvin (17-10) is a veteran of the sport, having competed for the UFC, Strikeforce and WEC in his career. In 2008, he lost to then-UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva via first round knockout.
“’The Sandman’ is back,” Irvin said. “This is where the road turns for me. I’m back, and fighting under the bright lights again for a huge promotion like Bellator, and have a tough test ahead of me in a guy like Brennan Ward. I know he likes to run his mouth and he’s a young guy, but I’m knocking this kid out on my way back to the top.”
Over two stints with the UFC, the 35-year-old Irvin went 4-6. He has fought as a heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight since turning pro in 2003.