The Bellator MMA bantamweight title will be on the line in next week’s Bellator 258 main event as champion Juan Archuleta meets Sergio Pettis for his first defense of the 135-pound title. Archuleta won the vacant title back at Bellator 246 in September of last year when he picked up a unanimous decision victory over Patchy Mix. The belt became vacant after former champion Darrion Caldwell lost to RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi in both RIZIN and Bellator title fights, but Horiguchi was forced to vacate the title after suffering a knee injury.
Pettis made his promotional debut at Bellator 238 in January of 2020 when he picked up a first-round submission victory over Alfred Khashakyan, on the same night Archuleta bounced back from his first loss in the Bellator cage and defeated Henry Corrales to cement his standing at the top of the division.
Ahead of their title fight at Bellator 258, both fighters met with the media at this week’s pre-fight press conference and when asked about the matchup, Juan Archuleta said the future of the sport will be on display in their fight.
“What you’re going to see with this fight with me and Sergio, is the future of the MMA. We’re both the future of MMA. We both have the styles where we can put it together, go out there, and exploit it. With this fight you’re going to see the highest hybrid of martial arts that you could possibly see”
A young worthy opponent with a veteran resume
At just 27-years old and two fights into his Bellator career, Sergio Pettis will be competing for the Bellator title and a chance to cement his own legacy in the sport that his brother Anthony Pettis has captivated throughout his own career. Although he’s relatively young in age, Pettis has had 25 professional fights in his career, and Archuleta told the media that he recognizes while his opponent is young, he’s earned the title fight through the years he’s put into the sport.
“He’s been young in the sport growing up into the man he is now, f**k like he said, he’s been fighting the best in the world non-stop. It’s not that he had a quick title fight, he’s been doing this at a young age. Me coming in at 25-2 same thing. I’ve been laying my groundwork, working out guys like TJ Dillashaw, Cub Swanson, Georgi Karakhanyan, Saad Awad, the list goes on, to make me who I am. That’s why you’re going to see the future of MMA happen come Friday night.”
Division full of hungry challengers
When Bellator returned in 2021 they did so with a new broadcasting partner (SHOWTIME) and an official rankings system, and both moves will have a positive impact in their respective ways. The rankings system will allow fans and media alike to have a clearer picture of each division’s standings and top contenders, and one quick glance at bantamweight shows a long list of worthy potential opponents for whoever the champion is.
Names like Mix, Magomed Magomedov, Raufeon Stots, James Gallagher, Leandro Higo, Josh Hill, and Jornel Lugo are all listed in the top-10 of the bantamweight division, and they’re not the only ones. This week it was announced that former champion Darrion Caldwell would be making a return to the division he once reigned and will meet Leandro Higo at Bellator 259 later next month.
With a long list of challengers awaiting and fighting for their opportunity to compete for the title, Bellator’s bantamweight division will be fireworks throughout the top of division, and should make for some exciting matchups moving forward.