The Bellator MMA: Fight Master finale bout between Joe Riggs and Mike Bronzoulis, scheduled to take place on the promotion’s season-nine kickoff event this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, Spike TV) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., has been put on hold.
Riggs, the most experienced contestant among the 32 fighters who competed on the debuting reality series for a slot in an upcoming welterweight tournament and a $100,000 prize, suffered a partial orbital bone fracture and retina detachment injury in training three weeks ago.
“My sparring partner threw a high kick and I blocked it, but his toe went through my head gear,” said the 30-year-old Riggs on Friday. “I was in horrible pain and they had to pry my eye open to see the damage.”
Riggs underwent a four-hour surgery for the injury that night, he said, and spent four days recovering in an Arizona hospital. Riggs said the surgery was successful and his physician has already cleared him to train again.
The bout will be rescheduled as soon as Riggs has recovered, wrote Anthony Mazzuca, Bellator’s Director of Public Relations, in an email to SI.com. Mazzuca added that Bellator hopes to reschedule the bout before season nine comes to its close in December.
“I can be ready [to fight] in October or [on] Nov. 2, if they need me,” said Riggs. Bellator will promote its first-ever, pay-per-view event on Nov. 2 at the Long Beach Arena in Southern California. Former UFC superstars Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will meet in the light heavyweight headliner, while three title bouts, including an anticipated rematch between lightweight champion Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, round out the main card.
Riggs, a recovering drug addict who fought for the UFC from 2004 to 2006, defeated Rob Mills, Eric Scallan, Evan Cutts, and Cole William to earn his place in the Fight Master finale. Greg Jackson coached Riggs (39-14, 1 NC) during the series, which shot for six weeks outside New Orleans. Riggs trains at The MMA Lab in Glendale, Ariz., with former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, among other notables.
The run to the finals by Bronzoulis (15-5-1) included victories over Gareth Joseph, Jason Norwood, Chris Lozano and Eric Bradley. The 34-year-old Houston native, who was coached by UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture on the show, trains at the Paradigm Training Center and the Main Street Boxing Gym.
Bellator MMA begins its ninth season on Saturday with a middleweight championship bout between Alexander Shlemenko (47-7) and Brett Cooper (19-8). Fight Master coach and former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren (8-3) will debut at bantamweight against Nick Kirk (9-2) in a semifinal tournament fight. The event will also feature the opening round of this season’s middleweight tournament. Bellator’s live events will then move to Friday nights (9-11 p.m. ET) for its fall run.
Update: Riggs has tweeted a photo of what his eye looked like the night of his injury