The injury bug has reshuffled a pair of major fight cards for Bellator's upcoming 2013 Summer Series.
An ACL injury forced season seven tournament winner Dave Jansen (19-2) to withdraw from a scheduled title fight against Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (11-0), which was expected to headline Bellator 96.
As a result, season eight tournament winner David Rickels (14-1) jumps to the front of the line and will the challenge Chandler in the main event of Bellator 97 -- a card which now features two title fights, as Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren defends his belt against Andrey Koreshkov in the night's co-main event. Promotion officials announced the switch on Sunday.
"It was just sort of a freak injury that happened in grappling, I heard a pop and after visiting the doctor, my fears were confirmed," Jansen said in a statement. "It's really devastating to me knowing I was so close to getting my shot, but I talked to Bjorn and the Bellator team and they confirmed I'll be getting my title shot when I'm healthy and ready to go, so I'm going to recover and train as hard as I ever have, and hopefully when I get back into the cage it's more rewarding than ever."
Bellator 97 takes place July 31, 2013 at the Santa Ana Center in Albuquerque, NM. Rickels hopes to hand Chandler the first loss of his career after defeating Lloyd Woodard, Jason Fischer and Saad Awad in succession to capture season eight's tournament crown.
"I'm already back in the gym getting ready for the biggest test of my career," Rickels said in a statement. "I was prepared for another few months off with Jansen already in line for his title shot, but when I got the news I was pumped because I got to enjoy myself for a while after the tournament, but now I'm ready to fight for that belt. Chandler is going to bring a huge challenge, but I know I need to focus on my takedown defense, and just push the pace. I've got to hurt Mike early, let him know I'm not playing around. I think he fights off of confidence more than anything else, so I'm looking to put a lot of doubt into his head early in this fight. Either way, I just can't wait until July 31st."
The complete Spike TV televised main cards of Bellator 96 and Bellator 97 can be found below.
Bellator 96, June 19th:
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (9-2) vs. Seth Petruzelli (14-7)
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Renato "Babalu" Sobral (37-10) vs. Jacob Noe (11-2)
Heavyweight Tournament: Vitaly Minakov (10-0) vs. Ron Sparks (8-1)
Welterweight: War Machine (12-4) vs. Blas Avena (8-6)
Heavyweight Tournament: Vinicius "Spartan" Queiroz (6-3) vs. Rich Hale (21-5)
Bellator 97, July 31st
Lightweight Title Fight: Michael Chandler (11-0) vs. David Rickels (14-1)
Welterweight Title Fight: Ben Askren (11-0) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (13-0)
Welterweight Tournament Finals: Douglas Lima (24-5) vs. Ben Saunders (16-5-2)
Light Heavyweight Tournament Finals: TBD vs. TBD
Featherweight: Patricio Pitbull (17-2) vs. Rob Emerson (12-10)