Daniel James Scores Main Card Fight at Bellator 297 in Chicago



Bellator MMA in Chicago on 6.16.23

LOS ANGELES – Chicago’s Cinderella ManDaniel James (15-6-1) is set to return to the BELLATOR cage in a main card matchup against No. 10-ranked Gokhan Saricam (8-2) when the promotion returns to The Windy City for BELLATOR 297: Nemkov vs. Romero on Friday, June 16 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. Additionally, BELLATOR has announced seven incredible preliminary offerings featuring multiple top-ten ranked athletes and four highly regarded undefeated fighters: Archie Colgan (7-0), Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0), Timur Khizriev (12-0), and Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0).

The critically acclaimed event will be headlined by BELLATOR Light Heavyweight World Champion and No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Vadim Nemkov (16-2), defending the throne against No. 3-ranked ageless wonder Yoel Romero (15-6). An equally compelling co-main event will feature BELLATOR’s No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter and current BELLATOR Featherweight World Champion, Patricio “Pitbull” (35-5), who looks to add another page to the MMA history books as he moves down a weight class to challenge incumbent 135-pound champion and No. 8-ranked pound-for-pound athlete Sergio Pettis (22-5) in a BELLATOR “Super Fight” for bantamweight gold. Additionally, a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked light heavyweights between Corey Anderson (16-6) and Phil Davis (24-6) is set.

BELLATOR 297Nemkov vs. Romero airs LIVE in the U.S. at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT on SHOWTIME. The preliminary contests will air live at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV.

Tickets for the explosive event are on sale now at Ticketmaster and

#4-Daniel James (15-6-1) vs. #10-Gokhan Saricam (8-2) — Heavyweight

Fresh off a main event knockout over Brazil’s Marcelo Golm (10-4), Chicago native Daniel “The American Predator” James (15-6-1) will make a quick turnaround to fight in front of his hometown fans again this June 16 at the Wintrust Arena. James, 41, vaulted his way into the heavyweight division’s Top 5 with his second consecutive BELLATOR knockout, the first of which came over Tyrell Fortune (12-3) in Chicago last November. “The American Predator” has looked every bit the part of his fearsome nickname since joining BELLATOR, displaying his devastating punching power as he climbs toward a bid at Ryan Bader’s Heavyweight World Championship.

32-year-old Gokhan Saricam (8-2) will look to derail the Daniel James hype-train on enemy soil June 16. The Turkish finisher has won four of his last five fights, including two first-round stoppages by ground and pound. Saricam hopes that a victory over the hard-hitting James will thrust his name into title contention, but he knows that the Wintrust Arena will be fully behind one of their own come fight night. Saricam, who trains alongside Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2) will need to formulate a gameplan to nullify the powerful striking of James and secure the W.

Roman Faraldo (8-1) vs. Bobby Nash (12-4) — Welterweight
Fan-favorite knockout artist Roman Faraldo (8-1) returns to the BELLATOR cage when he welcomes Michigan’s Bobby Nash (12-4) to the promotion in an explosive matchup of 170lb contenders. The Florida Keys’ powerhouse Faraldo looks to maintain his 100% KO rate against the debuting Nash. The 33-year-old Nash has other plans, entering the BELLATOR cage after three fights in the UFC on the strength of a four-fight and four-stoppage streak, none of which exited the first round.

#9-Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-2) vs. Pieter Buist (17-6) — Lightweight

Returning to the BELLATOR cage after successfully representing the promotion on last New Year’s Eve’s historic BELLATOR vs. RIZIN event, Khabib Nurmagomedov protégé Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-2) will defend his No. 9 ranking against promotional newcomer Pieter Buist (17-6) in a thrilling lightweight battle. The 29-year-old Rabadanov has looked sensational in his first four BELLATOR outings, dominating the opposition en route to his arrival in the divisional rankings. He will be a stiff test for the Netherlands’ Buist, a six-foot-two veteran with ten finishes on his impressive resume.

Jaleel Willis (16-4) vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0) — Welterweight

After his matchup with Rustam Khabilov fell through during fight week last month, Jaleel Willis (16-4) has been speedily rebooked to face off with unbeaten finisher Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0) in this welterweight tilt. Willis, 31, dominated decorated wrestler Kyle Crutchmer in his last outing, good for his seventh win in his last ten fights. The highly regarded Kuramagomedov will make his BELLATOR debut against Willis, bringing with him an impressive pedigree that includes victories in CFFC, Eagle FC, and the Contender Series.

#5-Alex Polizzi (10-2) vs. #7-Karl Moore (11-2) — Light Heavyweight

No. 5-ranked light heavyweight contenders Alex Polizzi (10-2) and Karl Moore (11-2) will meet in the middle of the cage in this high-octane preliminary bout, where both men will keep a close eye on the results of the Light Heavyweight World Championship co-main event atop the card. Polizzi, a three-time NCAA qualifier at Northwestern University, won eight of his last ten en route to his placement inside the division’s upper echelon. SBG Ireland’s Moore, 31, saw his hand raised in two straight fights after a multi-year layoff due to injury, and he hopes to keep his three-fight winning streak intact against Polizzi in this rescheduled tilt.

#10-Archie Colgan (7-0) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8) — Lightweight

Fresh off his impressive first-round knockout victory over Justin Montalvo (5-1) at last month’s BELLATOR 293, rousing young talent Archie Colgan (7-0) will square off against the 19-fight BELLATOR veteran and former Featherweight World Championship title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8) in a lightweight tilt. Since making his BELLATOR debut in 2021, Colgan has rocketed to stardom on the strength of a striking five-fight winning streak replete with four highlight-reel finishes. Opposite Colgan, the grizzled Sanchez will look to leverage his sizable edge in experience as he tries to steal Colgan’s momentum and return to promotional prominence in this must-see matchup.

Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0) vs. Kamil Oniszczuk (9-2) — Middleweight

One of the top European prospects in all of MMA, Hungarian Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0) will challenge fellow blue chip up-and-comer Kamil Oniszczuk (9-2) in a fantastic showcase of the future of the middleweight division. At 23, Novenyi has developed a stellar reputation out of London Shootfighters and successfully returned from ACL surgery with a dominant first-round finish of Andy Manzolo on February’s Dublin show. Meanwhile, Poland’s Oniszczuk looks to score his first BELLATOR victory after an impressive first showing against Costello van Steenis in Paris last October.

#8-Timur Khizriev (12-0) vs. Richie Smullen (10-2-1) — Featherweight

Russia’s Timur Khizriev (12-0) and Ireland’s Richie Smullen (10-2-1) will meet in a matchup between two of Europe’s top featherweight up-and-comers as part of the BELLATOR 297 preliminary card. Khizriev, ranked eighth in the official BELLATOR rankings, successfully debuted for the promotion in Chicago last year at BELLATOR 288 when he remained undefeated with a victory over longtime contender Daniel Weichel. For SBG Ireland’s Smullen, the fight will offer a chance to extend his five-fight winning streak, which saw him return to the BELLATOR cage with a win against Piotr Niedzielski in February on Dublin’s BELLATOR 291.



Friday, June 16 — 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. PT

Light Heavyweight World Title Bout: C-Vadim Nemkov (16-2) vs. #3-Yoel Romero (15-6)

Bantamweight World Title Bout: C-Sergio Pettis (22-5) vs. C-Patricio “Pitbull” (35-5)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #1-Corey Anderson (16-6) vs. #2-Phil Davis (24-6)

Heavyweight Bout: #4-Daniel James (15-6-1) vs. #10-Gokhan Saricam (8-2)


BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | Pluto TV

Friday, June 16 — 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT

Welterweight Bout: Roman Faraldo (8-1) vs. Bobby Nash (12-4)

Lightweight Bout: #9-Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-1) vs. Pieter Buist (17-6)

Welterweight Bout: Jaleel Willis (16-4) vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #5-Alex Polizzi (10-2) vs. #7-Karl Moore (11-2)

Lightweight Bout: #10-Archie Colgan (7-0) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8)

Middleweight Bout: Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0) vs. Kamil Oniszczuk (9-2)

Featherweight Bout: #8-Timur Khizriev (12-0) vs. Richie Smullen (10-2-1)

*Card subject to change

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