The eight season of Bellator MMA will begin in 13 days in Irvine, California and will be headlined by Michael Chandler making his first title defense against the season six lightweight tournament winner Rick Hawn.
Hawn (14-1) entered the lightweight tournament after being a finalist in the season four welterweight tournament, which he was defeated by Jay Hieron by split decision.
Following the fight, Hawn’s trainer Firas Zahabi told him that he felt he should move down in weight to the lightweight division.
“He told me that my body type is naturally a 55’er and I got on a diet plan with George Lockhart,” Hawn told TheMMAReport.com.
He entered the season six lightweight tournament at the beginning of 2012 and won his quarterfinal bout against Ricardo Tirloni by knockout in the first round. In his semifinal bout against Lloyd Woodard, the fight would end ten seconds into the second round when he also won by knockout. In the final of the tournament, he would go the distance against Brent Weedman and won by unanimous decision.
For the past eight months, he has been preparing for him fight against Chandler at Tri-Star Gym in Montreal with UFC fighters Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald. Hawn and his training team welcomed the idea of waiting till the beginning of 2013 for his title shot, especially with Bellator moving to Spike TV.
When he enters the cage in less than two weeks, Hawn will be the underdog as Chandler is currently a two to one favorite. Hawn is not concerned about being the underdog, since he is use to it.
“I am kind of use to that. Every fight I have had in my career, I have been the underdog.”
Chandler (10-0) is one of the best lightweight fighters in the world and has shown an improving overall fight game since entering Bellator in 2010. Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney has praised Chandler for his improvements in his striking game. Hawn has seen the improvements in his opponents game and knows that Chandler is dangerous.
“He is a tough kid, strong, gritty wrestler, very explosive, dangerous fighter and a big challenge in front of me.”
If Hawn is victorious on January 17th at the Bren Center in Irvine, he will become the third Bellator lightweight champion in the history of the company and would become the first member of Tri-Star gym to become a Bellator champion.