Friday night’s Bellator 255 card is headlined by a marquee bout pitting Patricio “Pitbull” Freire against Emmanuel Sanchez.
Freire is a double champion, holding both Bellator’s lightweight championship and the featherweight championship, and the winner of his fight against Sanchez will meet A.J. McKee in the finals of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix Tournament. In addition to the high-stakes fight, the card also marks Bellator’s debut on Showtime—and has the honor of being called by the premier play-by-play man in the business, Mauro Ranallo.
“If you’re just coming to Bellator now, you picked the right time,” Ranallo says. “Bellator is setting a higher standard every card. And that’s a perfect fit with Showtime, which tells some of the most compelling stories—and these fighters are telling the stories of their life. Everybody wants to know the truth behind those stories, and you’ll find out the truth when you watch Bellator MMA on Showtime.”
There is a plethora of reasons to watch Bellator, with Ranallo prominent among them. His sharp insight and ability to capture the action taking place is unparalleled, which was on display when he called the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. bout inNovember. Tyson’s boxing return was certainly noteworthy, but a standout part of the event occurred when the legendary Snoop Dogg joined Ranallo in the broadcast booth.
“That was a fever dream come to life for me,” Ranallo says. “The only thing that marred the evening for me was that I had to replace Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein, the man that was supposed to do it, and I agreed to fill with only 48 hours’ notice. It turned out to be a marriage of everything I’m part of, including calling the fights with Israel Adesanya—I’d called his Glory Kickboxing fight in Turkey way back in 2014. The whole night was amazing. It put the real in surreal.”
Ranallo is calling the Bellator cards in a two-man booth with veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy, and he is eager for the fight world to see some of MMA’s emerging talent, as well as the promotion’s biggest star, on such a massive platform.
“Bellator 255 has Patricio Pitbull, who is the most dominant and decorated champion in Bellator history, currently the only champ-champ, and the second simultaneous two-division in Bellator history,” Ranallo says. “He’s running it back with Emmanuel Sanchez, a homegrown talent who pushed Pitbull to the limit in 2018 in Israel when they went the full five rounds. Now with a potential million dollars at stake for the tournament winner, Sanchez is looking to show why he is the future of the sport.”
Bellator had long been defined by the brilliance of Michael Chandler, who recently left the promotion and debuted in stunning fashion for the UFC. Chandler’s last MMA defeat took place in May 2019 when he dropped the Bellator lightweight championship to Freire.
“Michael Chandler was the standard bearer for Bellator, but one of his last impressions in Bellator was getting knocked out in 61 seconds by Patricio Pitbull,” Ranallo says. “Then look at the UFC debut he made—that speaks to how it’s any given night in this sport.
“The UFC has the majority of the greatest fighters on the planet, sure, but they don’t have all of the greatest fighters on the planet.”
Bellator has the chance to showcase that depth the next two Friday nights, airing the Bellator version of the Elite Eight with the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix on April 9 and April 16 on Showtime. And with cards airing on three consecutive Fridays, viewers will also have the chance to reconnect with Ranallo.
Until last summer, he had been a weekly fixture calling pro wrestling for NXT on Wednesday nights. Since mutually agreeing to part ways with WWE last August, the NXT broadcast has lost a considerable amount of luster, no surprise given the value Ranallo brought to every call with his enthusiasm, passion and knowledge. Ranallo still keeps a watchful eye on the pro wrestling sector, and he was overjoyed to see Kota Ibushi finally claim the IWGP heavyweight championship in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
“Kota Ibushi represents everything that I love about pro wrestling,” Ranallo says. “He is responsible for so many of my favorite moments as a pro wrestling announcer, especially when I got to call New Japan Pro-Wrestling on AXS. One of the biggest highlights of my tenure with WWE was during the Cruiserweight Classic. Daniel Bryan was my broadcast partner, and we were able to call Kota Ibushi matches, as well as a galaxy of stars that were waiting for their moment to happen—and we even saw a spark of one of the greatest rivalries in WWE history in that tournament between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
“Ibushi is someone with such a work ethic and creativity and a commitment to the art form. For him to finally reach the summit, it doesn’t surprise me. It was only a matter of time and circumstance.”
As much viewers miss hearing Ranallo in wrestling, his voice is still heard championing the cause of mental health advocacy. Ranallo has been open and honest about his own struggles with mental health, and some of his greatest contributions to the world are the manner in which he has spoken up for those who need a voice.
“For me to be able to share my story, it allows me to add one more voice to the voiceless,” Ranallo says. “Especially in the fight game, with the apex predators, these are the alpha males and alpha females—but these are also human beings. We need to start taking care of each other more, even during a global pandemic. It’s not just about being physically healthy, it’s learning how to maintain a healthy relationship with the most important tool you have, and that’s your brain.
“We have so many individuals bringing their voices to mental health advocacy, the conversation is getting louder. There are too many people killing themselves, and that does not sit right with me.”
With the ability to advance knowledge and promote understanding, as well as call a fight with an uncommon prowess and flair, Ranallo is looking forward to putting on the headset for the next three Friday nights on Showtime.
“People are going to see fighters solidify their legacies inside the Bellator cage,” Ranallo says. “Friday nights on Showtime are going to be so entertaining, and this is going to be back-to-back-to-back.”