On June 24, BELLATOR middleweight champion and #4-ranked pound-for-pound men’s athlete Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi (49-7-2 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) will look to notch his 50th professional victory and his fourth BELLATOR title defense in the main event of BELLATOR 282 against undefeated challenger #1-ranked Johnny “The Human Cheat Code” Eblen (11-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA).
Mousasi, 36, is one of the most decorated mixed martial artists competing in the sport today. Since signing with BELLATOR in 2017, Mousasi has added the promotion’s middleweight title to a championship collection that includes the Cage Warriors, DREAM, and Strikeforce middleweight titles, as well as the DREAM light heavyweight title. A professional since 2003, Mousasi’s Hall of Fame-worthy resume includes wins over former BELLATOR champions in Rory MacDonald, Douglas Lima, and Rafael Carvalho, former UFC champions in Chris Weidman, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort, and many other notable opponents.
Representing the Netherlands, Mousasi has solidified his status as one of BELLATOR’s biggest stars and most potent talents with his well-rounded skill set and dominant performances. He defeated Russian stalwart Alexander Shlemenko to kickstart his BELLATOR career, then captured the promotion’s middleweight title for the first time with a suffocating first-round ground-and-pound TKO victory over Brazil’s Rafael Carvalho in May of 2018.
Mousasi then called out then-BELLATOR welterweight kingpin Rory MacDonald for a superfight. On the microphone post-fight in front of a raucous London crowd, Mousasi declared, “I think everyone wants to see [me against] Rory MacDonald. Hopefully, he doesn’t chicken out and we have a fight.”
Mousasi made quick work of MacDonald, overwhelming “The Red King” with superior wrestling and top pressure through the better part of two rounds before earning a TKO stoppage thanks to hellacious ground-and-pound elbows that prompted referee Herb Dean to call the BELLATOR 206 main event.
The lone blemish on his BELLATOR record remains a close majority decision defeat at the hands of Brazilian jiu jitsu great Rafael Lovato Jr. in June of 2019.
Mousasi hasn’t been bested since. He outpointed the legendary Lyoto Machida just three months later on the stacked BELLATOR 228: Pitbull vs. Archuleta event, then reclaimed his middleweight crown by dominating then-BELLATOR welterweight title-holder Douglas Lima en route to a unanimous decision victory in the main event of BELLATOR 250 in October of 2020.
In the first defense of his second title reign, Mousasi faced veteran wrestler John Salter, who entered the fight with Mousasi on the strength of a seven-fight winning streak during which he finished all of his opponents. Despite being the smaller man inside the cage and dealing with the mixed threat of a southpaw finisher, Mousasi emerged victorious after scoring a vicious ground-and-pound stoppage of Salter in the third round of the BELLATOR 264 main event.
“Maybe I look skinny, but I’m a lot stronger, and physically, I was the stronger guy in there,” Mousasi explained in his post-fight interview. “On top, I felt like I could just pressure him, put my weight on him, and hurt him with my punches. Make him feel the pressure.”
This past February, Mousasi followed up the shutout win over Salter with another title defense. Facing the popular, then-undefeated Austin Vanderford, Mousasi entered the BELLATOR cage for his eighth time against a fighter who was unbeaten in his first five BELLATOR outings. This time, it took Mousasi less than half of a round to finish his challenger, stunning Vanderford on the feet before swarming him with ferocious ground-and-pound elbows.
Afterward, Mousasi took a more confident tone in his post-fight interview. Long content to let his fighting prowess do the talking for him, the reigning champion told the world exactly what the win over Vanderford confirmed to him.
“I wanted to hurt him. I never said I was the best middleweight, but now I’m going to say it, I’m the best middleweight,” said Mousasi. “From now on I am going to destroy some people. I’m good, I’m confident, I’m at my best ever. I’ve never been so confident in my life.”
Mousasi will bring that confidence with him into the main event of BELLATOR 282 on June 24 when he faces undefeated #1-ranked challenger Johnny Eblen. Eblen, a former University of Missouri wrestling standout who has notched five knockouts through his first 11 professional fights.
At the recent BELLATOR 282 virtual press conference, Mousasi pointed out that while Eblen has been impressive, he hasn’t faced the rigors of a five-round title fight.
“My opponent is undefeated, but I haven’t seen him on his back. I haven’t seen him go five rounds, so we will see… A fight is a fight, I’m coming to finish this fight. I talked to Scott, and a couple of my past performances were not appreciated, so we have to put on a show and if Eblen comes to fight it will be even better. The last two were finishes so we are going to go for the finish again,” he added.
“The last two opponents were [of a] similar style, wrestlers, so basically, I’ve been training for a fighting style similar to Eblen for almost a year now.” The champion promised, “I’m not planning to stop after this fight. I’m happy to get my 50th victory and move on to different things.”
The BELLATOR 282 main card, which features the Mousasi-Eblen title fight and two BELLATOR Bantamweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals bouts, airs live on SHOWTIME beginning at 9:00 PM ET.
The talent-stacked preliminary portion of the BELLATOR 282 card, which features an eye-popping nine ranked contenders and other exciting matchups, will begin at 4:00 PM ET and will air live free-of-charge on the BELLATOR YouTube channel, the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and on Pluto TV.