Bellator 296 fight week kicked off with a showpiece press conference as Bellator president Scott Coker, flanked by the stars of the main and co-main events, answered questions from the media at the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
Joining Coker on the dais were former middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and middleweight contender Fabian Edwards, who will face off in the main event on Friday night at the AccorHotels Arena, plus co-main eventers Mansour Barnaoui and former lightweight champ Brent Primus, who will do battle in the quarter-finals of the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix.
In addition, lightweight champion and Grand Prix semi-finalist Usman Nurmagomedov and middleweight champion Johnny Eblen were also in attendance as they played their part in the event.
Here is a selection of the key quotes from the session in the French capital.
Scott Coker, Bellator president
“When I think about Paris, I think about all the great martial arts talent that has been here for years. Before MMA was legal the best kickboxing in the world was here. When we started making targets for expansion globally, France was on the list as soon as MMA was legal.
“This will be our third event and I believe it will be our best. Being in the Eiffel Tower for this press conference is amazing as well. We have done fights all around the world and this press conference location must be the best in the world.”
“Paris is an amazing city. When we set our sights on worldwide travel, we look at London and Tokyo and we would like to do 2-3 events here in France every year and have a sub-series of events that we can build in 2024.
“It can be to try and build the French fighters and find the next big star. When I think about Europe and France specifically, this can be a hub filled with a series of fighters with the winner going to Bellator.”
Gegard Mousasi, former Bellator middleweight champion
“This is what I do. I don’t know anything else. One more shot at the title, my fight with Edwards and then I’ll go from there.”
“I’ll first focus on Edwards, and I just need to come and fight (Eblen). He caught me good in the first round, and he got the best of me. I just need to come to fight and that’s what I am going to do on Friday, I was hesitant last time to go all out.”
Fabian Edwards, middleweight contender
“On Friday night I’m going to put my hands on him, so I don’t care if he’s looking over me.”
“This fight means a title shot. I don’t look at him [Mousasi] as a legend, he’s just another man.”
“100%, (joining his brother Leon as a world champion is) what I’m aiming for. I’m ready to go. 2023, both champs.”
Brent Primus, former Bellator lightweight champion
“(It’s) life-changing for me, and my family and I am ready for the challenge. After I beat Mansour [Barnaoui], I’m going for the champ over there.”
“I can get that revenge (against Alexander Shablliy) in the finals, and I think he has a good chance to take over that side of the bracket. I’m not looking past the tough opponent I have in front of me but it would be nice to get that revenge.”
“I’m not going to say (Barnoui is the) toughest, I’ve fought some tough guys like Michael Chandler, but I know he’s tough and there are some things that I need to be ready for.”
“Obviously Usman because he has the belt and that’s the goal but right now, but I have a task in front of me so when I handle business on Friday I’ll look towards that.”
“I feel like I can finish Mansour on the feet or on the ground. It’s going to be a tough fight but I’m confident I’m going to finish this guy.”
Mansour Barnaoui, lightweight contender
“You’ll get to know me on Friday, and you’ll see an explosive fight.”
“I want to win this tournament and get the belt and like I told you before, win all the belts in all the organizations and be the best in the world.”
Usman Nurmagomedov, Bellator lightweight champion
“We’ll see (how the Primus vs. Barnaoui fight goes). I hope we see a great fight and good luck to both of you.”
“Of course I’ve seen this fight (between Barnaoui and UFC champion Islam Makhachev), but this fight was a long time ago. Mansour has grown up so much. First of all, Mansour needs to win this fight and I wish you both good luck. I will await you on the top. See you soon.”
Johnny Eblen, Bellator middleweight champion
“This is really exciting here. Whether I retire Gegard or crush Fabian’s dreams, I look forward to it!”
“I mean they’re both one of the best guys in the world. But I’m the best. I can’t wait to prove that against one of them, so I hope they both put on a show come Friday night.”
Photo credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA