Rory MacDonald (left) won a decision against Neiman Gracie to defend his welterweight title. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Neiman Gracie wants to be part of the first event Bellator puts on after the long break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but Rory MacDonald, his ideal opponent, is no longer available after leaving the company to sign with the Professional Fighters League.
The 31-year-old was looking to bounce back from the first loss of his career, a decision to MacDonald last June, when he agreed to face Kiichi Kunimoto in December. However, Gracie suffered an “annoying” hand break that kept him on the sidelines for three months. Finally ready for another fight, the jiu-jitsu expert wants to waste no time.
“I spoke with one of the (Bellator) officials and said I’m ready to fight as soon as they are back,” Gracie told MMA Fighting. “I don’t know when yet because they also don’t know when they will be able to return, but they think it will be around July or August. But I let them know that I’m here to fight.”
In a perfect scenario, Gracie would love a rematch with MacDonald, but the Canadian star opted to part ways with the company instead.
“I was caught by surprise,” Gracie said of MacDonald’s departure. “I found out on Instagram that he signed with another promotion. He’s someone I would’ve liked to fight again. I think I have what it takes to win this fight. I was bummed when he left the promotion, but it happens, right? Nothing personal, but this is a fight I wanted to do again. Just like Douglas Lima had his chance to fight him again, I wanted my chance.”
It was “quite surprising” to see him choose the PFL instead of other companies, Gracie continued. “I didn’t expect him to leave the promotion, but, if he did, I thought maybe to go to ONE Championship or other promotions. It’s cool, he’s doing a nice career. If he manages to win there as well, that will show he was a top contender in several promotions. And there’s also good money there.”
With MacDonald no longer in the Bellator roster, Gracie lists Michael Page, Yaroslav Amosov and Lorenz Larkin as possible opponents “based on what I’m seeing and hearing.”
“I don’t have an ideal name, but I want someone that would take me to a title shot as fast as possible,” he said.
Asked who would be his ideal choice, the Brazilian narrows the list down to two names.
“I think Michael Page would be a cool fight because he has a big name, everybody wants to see him fight,” Gracie said. “Amosov would also be cool because of his fighting style. He’s a good wrestler and he’s coming off 23 wins in a row. It would be nice to beat him. Both of them.”
Amosov (23-0) is unbeaten under the Bellator banner with wins over Gerald Harris, Erick Silva, David Rickels and Ed Ruth in a span of 19 months. Page (17-1), on the other hand, collected knockouts against Richard Kiely, Gianni Melillo and Shinsho Anzai since his first career-loss to Lima a year ago.
A Gracie vs. Page match would be the classic grappler vs. striker contrast in MMA, and the Brazilian wonders if all parts would agree to making it happen.
“I don’t know,” Gracie said when asked if Bellator would try to “protect” Page by not pairing them up. “Sometimes it’s not even Bellator doing that, it’s the fighter himself that can choose. I don’t know if he would accept (this fight) or not, but I think Bellator would make him the offer and it would be up to him to accept or not.
“It’s hard to say (if Page would take it). I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe he thinks it’s an easy fight because he’s better than me on the feet, or maybe he thinks it’s a bad fight because I’m better than him on the ground. I don’t know. It’s hard to say if he would accept it or not.”
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