Neiman Gracie believes his Bellator 255 co-main event clash with Jason Jackson, which goes down Friday night in Uncasville, Conn., should determine who is next in line for the welterweight championship. Yet, like in most cases in the MMA business, one can’t be so certain.
Gracie challenged for the 170-pound belt in June 2019 in the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix semifinal, but lost a decision to then-champion Rory MacDonald. Back in the win column with a submission over Jon Fitch, a victory that boosted his Bellator record to 8-1 with seven submissions, Gracie is “kind of lost as well, not knowing who will fight [for the belt] and who won’t.”
“I’ve already heard from some people that whoever wins my fight will fight for the belt, I’ve also heard that [Yaroslav] Amosov will fight, so I don’t know who will,” Gracie said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “But I know I’m in the mix. I’m close. I think it all depends on how my fight goes and how it ends. I think I can get this spot for the belt if I can end it well with a nice submission or even a knockout. It all depends on how this fight goes.”
Douglas Lima is the welterweight king in Bellator and returns to his original weight class after coming up short in his attempt to becoming a two-division titleholder, losing to middleweight Gegard Mousasi. Gracie currently sits at No. 3 in the brand-new official Bellator rankings, below Michael Page and Yaroslav Amosov.
“I saw the ranking and, to tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s fair,” Gracie said. “‘MVP’ is [ranked] first, [but] I think it could be myself or Amosov first. [Page] could be No. 3. He’s coming off many wins but he hasn’t fought anybody with a name, right? I don’t think it’s right to have him in No. 1. But I think rankings in MMA are still something new and [promotions] don’t really follow it. I think it depends on how we fight, who we fight, and how we win. With a good win [Friday], I think I can get this title shot next.”
Jackson, Gracie’s opponent at Bellator 255, is currently ranked No. 6 behind Logan Storley and Derek Anderson, something Gracie also considers unfair. But, “at the end of the day, they will put whoever sells more and is more interesting for the public [against Lima],” he said.
“The Ass-Kicking Machine” won three in a row under the Bellator banner going into his fight with Gracie, capped off by a decision win over Benson Henderson. Gracie says he learned “a lot” with his defeat to MacDonald and he expects his Bellator 255 bout will be a classic grappler vs. striker matchup.
“I think he’s tough and well-rounded and has good striking and good takedown defense,” Gracie said, “But going to the ground, especially with me on top, I think anyone in the world in this weight class would be in serious trouble. I think he will try his best to keep the fight on the feet and I will try to take him down. It’s no secret.”