By Stephen Kihn
Bellator MMA is taking over the European mixed martial arts scene, according to English bantamweight Cal Ellenor.
Ellenor (7-2), who recently penned a four-fight deal with Bellator, is set to make his promotional debut on home soil against ex-Cage Warriors flyweight champion Nathan Greyson (6-2) at Utilita Arena in Newcastle on Saturday.
‘Cal Pacino’ will fight in the prelims on a stacked Newcastle Bellator card, which is headlined by fellow Sunderland native Ryan Scope (11-1) taking on veteran lightweight destroyer Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire (20-8).
Ellenor, a former interim title challenger in South Africa-based organisation Extreme Fighting Championship, feels the Scott Coker-led company is making its presence felt across the pond and beyond.
“Bellator’s basically taking over the European scene now,” Ellenor says.
“I think they’ve realised how much there is of a big market for fighters here, so they’ve kind of signed a lot of people from England, a couple of Scottish guys – just guys from all over Europe really. And yeah, they’re bringing a big show back to the North East, so I think they’ve wanted to get some local guys on there, build the card up a bit. But they’ve given us four-fight deals, rather than just given us the one fight like most people on the card. There’s another guy from my team who has got a multi-fight deal with them, so I think we’ve been quite lucky in that respect – like obviously getting signed with a huge, well-known organisation.”
Meanwhile, Ellenor, a submission specialist with crisp boxing, is bracing for a fan-friendly spectacle when he locks up with knockout artist Greyson. Ellenor was previously outwrestled in a unanimous decision loss in November 2018 to Luthando Biko (5-1), an accomplished judoka with a suffocating ground game. But with all six of Greyson’s victories coming via KO/TKO, Ellenor is relishing their match-up.
“Nathan Greyson is fit and athletic,” Ellenor says of his London-based compatriot, who is riding a three-fight winning streak.
“He looks strong and he’s got heavy hands, but I think I’m better than him everywhere the fight goes. Obviously I can’t switch off at all in the fight and I need to stay focused to get the job done, but I think all round I’m a better martial artist. I see the fight being entertaining for the fans. I think he’s going to be very up for it, as will I. I’m fighting at home in front of all my family and friends. I definitely think this is a great match-up and we will both be looking to show how good we are as it is both our debut under the Bellator MMA banner.”
Ellenor, who hails from Grindon and trains under two-time Bellator representative Andrew Fisher (17-8-1) at Team Fish Tank MMA in Seaham, can’t wait to compete on an elite stage in front of friends and family on the weekend.
“To be having my first fight so close to home, obviously the North East, right around the corner … really, it’s only 10, 15 minutes drive from me house in Newcastle – so it’s amazing. A lot of people have been supporting me from my first fight all the way to now, and I got such a big following when I started fighting in South Africa. From back home I constantly got messages, like people wanting us to fight back home, but obviously I was signed with the EFC so I couldn’t. But now the fact that with signing with Bellator and the show being there, it’s amazing. I’ve got so much support back home now. I’ve sold 100s of tickets and already ordered more. There’s more coming and people are still asking for them in the boatloads, you know what I mean, so it’s amazing to see what kind of reception I’ve got. It’s going to be such a lively full house. I can’t wait to just see the environment, it’s going to be awesome. The atmosphere is going to be amazing, so I just can’t wait for it.”