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Bellator 192 fighters react to promotion changing main event to Rampage Jackson vs. Chael Sonnen

Bellator 170 Weigh-ins Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES — Shane Kruchten was in the hot tub at the Bellator 192 fighter hotel Tuesday night, making progress on his weight cut. In there with him was Douglas Lima, who defends the Bellator welterweight title against Rory MacDonald on Saturday night’s card at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

The inevitable topic of discussion, Kruchten said, was Bellator’s late change in the main event from Lima vs. MacDonald to the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament first-round matchup between Quinton Jackson and Chael Sonnen.

Bellator president Scott Coker first spoke of the change last Friday in an interview with The Sporting News. The fight poster, the back drop Wednesday at media day and the printed tickets all seem to indicate that Lima vs. MacDonald was going to be the main event.

Coker told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that the television side — the newly rebranded Paramount Network owned by Bellator parent company Viacom — wanted “Rampage” and Sonnen as the headliner.

Lima said Wednesday that he didn’t really care either way. MacDonald admitted to being “disappointed” and surprised by the late change. Most of the fighters at Bellator’s media day Wednesday felt like the promotion should have stuck with the original main event.

“It sucks when you keep flip-flopping the co-main and main,” said Kruchten, who fights Aaron Pico on the card. “I think it’s unfortunate that the belt holder is No. 1 an underdog, which is a tragedy, and No. 2, he’s the co-main? I really like Rampage, I really like Chael. I really do. I value them, they paved the way for all of us younger guys. But at the same time, it’s like: You don’t hold a belt.”

Georgi Karakhanyan felt like Bellator should have kept the title in the main event, because Lima and MacDonald are in their primes and “Rampage” and Sonnen are older fighters who are outside their heyday. Sonnen is 40 years old and Jackson is 39.

“I understand ‘Rampage’ and Chael Sonnen have big names, but at the end of the day their time is gone,” said Karakhanyan, who faces Henry Corrales on Saturday. “When I’m 40 and I’m still fighting, I’m most likely fighting for money, because I’ll most likely have no money. But when you have someone like Douglas Lima and Rory MacDonald, they’ve done a lot for the sport and you drop them down, it kind of lowers their name.

“Chael is a good talker. I agree. Did he back up his talking? I think 98 percent of the time he didn’t back it up, right? He was talking major crap last year to Tito and what happened? Tito didn’t even lock the arm in a triangle and he was already tapping. So I look at the guys like Rory and Douglas as very humble. They might not talk as good as Chael, but I don’t think it was the right decision.”

Pico and Joey Davis, who faces Ian Butler on the card, both don’t necessarily mind that “Rampage” vs. Sonnen is the main event. But Lima vs. MacDonald is the bout they’re most looking forward to.

“I think Lima and Rory MacDonald, that’s the one,” Davis said. “I think Rory is coming from the UFC and he thinks he can dominate Lima. And Lima is ridiculous, man. That dude is fearless. Scary. I’m trying to get to where Lima is one day. I think it’s gonna take a little bit more maturity for me to get there. I’m only 24 years old and the sky is the limit.”

Pico said he was in the same dressing room as Lima at Bellator NYC last June and he was impressed by the Brazilian’s mindset, preparation and character. Lima beat Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision on that card.

“My honest opinion, I’m really looking forward to Lima-MacDonald,” Pico said “They have their way of doing things. Man, that’s gonna be a great fight, ‘Rampage’ and Sonnen, it could go either way. Me personally, I’m really looking forward to Lima and MacDonald. Lima is a beast. He’s a beast.”

Haim Gozali and Khonry Gracie are not up in arms about the border at all. Gozali said Jackson and Sonnen deserve to be in the spot they’ve been given, as seasoned big draws for the UFC.

“It’s OK,” Gozali said. “It’s two legends of the sport, two big people. At my age, I don’t see main event or co-main event or undercard. I see a fight. I don’t care if it’s the first fight or the last fight, because I don’t see it, so I don’t care.”

Added Gracie: “They’re both gonna be great fights. I don’t think it would have mattered which one would have been there. You’ve got the Grand Prix and then you’ve got the welterweight world title. They’re both amazing fights. I’m not the one that’s fighting with those two fights, so I couldn’t really tell you. It’s up to them.”

Corrales said he fully understands if MacDonald is a bit upset by the late change. He has a right to be. But other than that, Corrales doesn’t think it should be a topic of conversation leading into the big Bellator card.

“The fighters are the only ones allowed to be disappointed about it,” he said. “Everybody else should shut the f*ck up.”

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