Mixed martial arts has always been popular in the north east of England, but tonight, both main and co-main events at Bellator Newcastle involve fighters from the region, both of whom have pressure on them to perform. Not only is the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle sold out, but the event marks the first time that Bellator feature its European series live on Channel 5 on a Saturday night in prime time.
The main card airs live from 10pm tonight on Channel 5, the first of six events this year.
Ryan Scope, a former lightweight champion in the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts, faces Patricky Friere, the heavy-handed Brazilian who has become a cult figure in Bellator and has 13 knockouts in his twenty career victories, in a resume dating back to 2005 when the Natal native joined the paid ranks at the age of twenty.
Scope, with one defeat in eleven outings, would gain a major scalp with a victory, but will need to weather the attacks of ‘Pitbull’ – his brother Patricio is the reigning Bellator featherweight (145lbs) champion – who had harsh words for the Sunderland fighter who tried to get under his skin at Friday’s weigh in.
The ‘Pitbull’ says war has been declared.
In the co-main event, popular reality television star Aaron Chalmers, once a cast member on the hit television series ‘Geordie Shore’, meets American Corey Browning, a submission specialist.
Given Chalmers’ switch from television to fighting, the Newcastle native has been under the spotlight throughout his short career, but has thus far come unblemished to 4-0, since taking his first fight in May 2017.
All four victories have been first round finishes for the former martial artist who was a scaffolder on North Sea oil rigs until he was auditioned for the reality television series, on which he was one of the most popular characters.
Chalmers, whose cage sobriquet is ‘The Joker’, training in Birmingham in this camp alongside brothers Leon and Fabian Edwards, looked in fine shape this week, revealing to The Telegraph that if he comes through this latest test against Browning successfully – the American submitted Baby Slice in his last fight – he intends to make the trip for a training camp in Brazil with the Friere brothers.
The three men have hit it off this week in Newcastle.
“We would love to have Aaron come over to train with us,” Patricio Friere told Telegraph Sport. “We admire what he is doing because he is showing that if you have the desire in you to succeed at mixed martial arts, to take the sport seriously, you can improve yourself and your life.
“We have openly invited him to come to Natal to train with us for a month. It takes a special person to change your life as he has from being a tv personality to being a fighter. It is all about personal growth.”
Chalmers, meanwhile, insisted to The Telegraph that he “has ambitions to fight in America this year” but added that “the key I think is that I don’t get too far ahead of myself because I have so much to learn still and I need to keep on winning.”
Elsewhere on the main card, former paratrooper Terry Brazier, a European BAMMA champion at lightweight and welterweight, meets Scotsman Chris Bungard in a highly-anticipated style match-up. Brazier’s story of overcoming Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sustained serving in Afghanistan with the British Army is one of the compelling back stories of a fighter who seemingly has the ability to go a long way in the sport. Both combatants have promised fireworks in this fight. Bungard (13-4), is a tricky, awkward, smart fighter, while Brazier blazes with ferocious attacks and strong cardio. It may well be the fight of the night on the main card.
The last of a quartet of contests to be aired live on Channel 5 on the main card sees Fabian Edwards (5-0), one of Britain’s greatest prospects, challenging the experience of fellow middleweight Lee Chadwick, who missed the 185 pound middleweight limit by 2.7 pounds on Friday.
Chadwick, with 38 fights since 2006, presents the first real test for Edwards.
“I’m going to finish him, and make a statement,” Edwards told The Telegraph. It has been a week of statements, not just by fighters, but for the MMA fight industry itself, with Bellator television deals announced with both Channel 5, and Sky Sports, which will air 20 events live from the USA in 2019.