UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Under the watch of promotion President Scott Coker, Bellator has not shied away from doing things a little differently in the mixed martial arts space when it’s called for.
On Friday, boxing and MMA will meet in Bellator’s latest gamble on trying something unique. And while it’s far from Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, their recent fight may be fresh enough to give a little push to what will go down between Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton at Bellator 194.
Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) are professional boxers. They’re new to the cage, but their prominence in women’s boxing is well known. Hardy, a 36-year-old single mother from Brooklyn, is 20-0 as a boxer and holds the WBC international women’s featherweight title. San Francisco-based Julaton, 37, is 14-4-1 in the ring and is a former WBO women’s super bantamweight champion.
What’s unique about their fight at Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. (9 p.m. ET, Paramount Network) is when it’s over and one of them gets her hand raised, the talk almost immediately will move to the rematch – which will take place later this year in a boxing match put together by their promoters in that sport.
“I’m just glad that Bellator was on board, my boxing promoter was on board, her boxing promoter was on board – this is something that’s going to be the first of its kind,” Julaton on Wednesday told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s going to be a classic fight, and I’m excited it’s going to promote mixed martial arts, (not to mention) women’s mixed martial arts and women’s boxing.”
Like any classic combat sports rivalry, it helps when there’s at least a little beef between the two fighters. For Hardy and Julaton, that started this past October when both fought on the same card at Bellator 185. They weren’t fighting each other, but already the talk had started about when that might be. The fact they both lost that night didn’t do much to stem the tide of a fight most presumed was an eventuality.
That Bellator is willing to let two of its most recognizable women’s flyweights toggle back and forth between MMA and boxing might say something about the kind of opportunity that is there – not just for Hardy and Julaton, but for future fighters, as well.
“You’re starting to see a lot of female boxers cross over to MMA because the short-term pay is way, way better,” Hardy said. “The promotion side in MMA is way, way better. So more female boxers are crossing over, but we’re not crossing over because we don’t still love boxing. So this is the first, but I’m sure it will be the first of many where you’ll see big champions crossing back and forth.”
The timing of their fight, just six months after UFC champion McGregor crossed over to fight Mayweather in a mega-boxing match, and on the heels of Mayweather’s hints that he might try an MMA fight, seems to be a bonus for Julaton.
“With Mayweather fighting McGregor, it caused a domino effect and caused a lot more interest,” Julaton said. “… This is untapped territory, so we’ll see how it all folds out.”
But don’t get it too mixed up. This is still a sport about punching the opponent across the mouth. And for Hardy, the timing works out well for reasons beyond advancing women’s MMA and women’s boxing.
“She’s running around talking about how I’m afraid to fight her,” Hardy said. “So of course I want to do it now and don’t want to wait. But the God’s honest truth is I don’t care about her. Who is she?”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Heather Hardy, Ana Julaton head down boxing-MMA crossover road at Bellator 194