LOS ANGELES (May 3, 2023) – BELLATOR MMA is adding six new contests to complete the lineup for its blockbuster BELLATOR 297: Nemkov vs. Romero / Pettis vs. Pitbull event Friday, June 16 event at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

The preliminary portion of BELLATOR 297 now features a middleweight fight between No. 5-ranked Austin Vanderford (11-2) and Dagestan’s undefeated Imamshafi Aliev (9-0), who was victorious in his promotional debut at BELLATOR 288. “The Windy City” will also see undefeated, homegrown prospect Jordan Newman (5-0) try his hand against the second-most famous Matthew Perry (5-3) in a friendly 185-pound affair.

At lightweight, Mike Hamel (10-5) quickly returns to action against “The Chechen Wolf,” Shamil Nikaev (10-0), No. 7-ranked Leandro Higo (21-6) goes to battle against Team Fedor’s Nikita Mikhailov (10-2) at bantamweight, Cody Law (6-2) looks to bounce back from the first losing streak of his young career against Colorado’s Edwin Chavez (6-4), Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) returns for his sophomore appearance in BELLATOR against two-fight veteran Kevin Childs (1-1), and highly-touted Max Metzgar makes his pro debut against David McKinney (1-3).

Additionally, Kyle Crutchmer (9-2), a two-time NCAA All-American and two-time Big 12 champion at Oklahoma State has replaced Roman Faraldo (8-1) and will now face Bobby Nash (12-4) in a welterweight matchup.

These six bouts join a critically acclaimed event headlined by BELLATOR Light Heavyweight World Champion and No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Vadim Nemkov (16-2), defending the throne against No. 3-ranked ageless wonder Yoel Romero (15-6). An equally compelling co-main event will feature BELLATOR’s No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter and current BELLATOR Featherweight World Champion, Patricio “Pitbull” (35-5), who looks to make MMA history by becoming a three-division champion as he moves down a weight class to challenge incumbent bantamweight kingpin and No. 8-ranked pound-for-pound athlete Sergio Pettis (22-5) in a BELLATOR “Super Fight” for the ages. Additionally, a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked light heavyweights between Corey Anderson (16-6) and Phil Davis (24-6) is set, as is a heavyweight slugfest between No. 4-ranked Daniel James (15-6-1) and No.10-ranked Gokhan Saricam (8-2)

BELLATOR 297: Nemkov vs. Romero airs LIVE in the U.S. at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT on SHOWTIME. The preliminary contests will air live at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV. 

Tickets for the explosive event are on sale now at Ticketmaster and

#5-Austin Vanderford vs. Imamshafi Aliev — Middleweight Bout

No. 5-ranked middleweight contender and former BELLATOR world title challenger Austin Vanderford (11-2) will look to get back to his usual winning ways against undefeated Dagestani Imamshafi Aliev (9-0) in a preliminary matchup. The 33-year-old Vanderford will be eager to add to his highlight reel and re-assert his case for title contention when he steps into the BELLATOR cage for the first time since August, while Aliev will try to build upon the momentum earned in his dominant BELLATOR debut in Chicago last November.

Jordan Newman vs. Matthew Perry – Middleweight Bout

Undefeated top up-and-comer Jordan Newman (5-0) proved he is much more than just a wrestler in Chicago last November when he out struck and then submitted Jayden Taulkerat BELLATOR 288. At BELLATOR 297, the two-time NCAA Division III National Champion will take on Matthew Perry (5-3) in a matchup worthy of getting the Friends together.

Mike Hamel vs. Shamil Nikaev – Lightweight Bout

Elsewhere on the preliminary card, fellow BELLATOR 293 victor Mike Hamel (10-5) joins Archie Colgan in a quick turnaround when he faces surging Russian standout Shamil Nikaev (10-0) in a lightweight clash. A five-fight BELLATOR veteran, Hamel sports an impressive three-fight winning capped off by his lightning quick knockout of Nick Brownein March. Winning streaks are no stranger to the undefeated, Kill Cliff FC-trained Nikaev, who will make his long-awaited return to the BELLATOR cage after besting Kemran Lachinovin 2020. 

Cody Law vs. Edwin Chavez – Featherweight Bout

At featherweight, blue-chip prospect Cody Law (6-2) will look to right the ship against promotional newcomer Edwin Chavez (6-4). The former NCAA Division II National Champion and two-time All-American hopes to remind the division of his limitless potential with an emphatic victory over Colorado’s Chavez at BELLATOR 297.

#7-Leandro Higo vs. Nikita Mikhailov – Bantamweight Bout

Brazilian ex-title challenger Leandro Higo (21-6) will return to defend his place among the bantamweight Top Ten for the first time since his participation in the Bantamweight World Grand Prix against Russia’s Nikita Mikhailov (9-2). Higo enters off a razor-thin decision against superstar Danny Sabatello keen to return to the win column after victories in three of his last four. Opposite Higo, Mikhailov’s decision victory over former Bantamweight World Champion Darrion Caldwell has given the upstart plenty of confidence, and he believes his skills will match up well with Higo’s in this preliminary affair.

Wladmir Gouvea vs. Kevin Childs — Heavyweight Bout

Heavyweight prospect Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) will return to Chicago for the second time in as many professional fights when he challenges Kevin Childs (1-1) in this preliminary fight. The 30-year-old AKA product swarmed Kory Moegenburgfor a second-round TKO in his pro debut, and he hopes to do the same against Childs on June 16. Childs, 28, brings with him a wealth of amateur MMA and boxing experience for what looks every bit the part of a classic heavyweight brawl. 



Friday, June 16 — 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. PT

Light Heavyweight World Title Bout: C-Vadim Nemkov (16-2) vs. #3-Yoel Romero (15-6)

Bantamweight World Title Bout: C-Sergio Pettis (22-5) vs. C-Patricio “Pitbull” (35-5)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #1-Corey Anderson (16-6) vs. #2-Phil Davis (24-6)

Heavyweight Bout: #4-Daniel James (15-6-1) vs. #10-Gokhan Saricam (8-2)


BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | Pluto TV

Friday, June 16 — 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT

Welterweight Bout: Kyle Crutchmer (9-2) vs. Bobby Nash (12-4)

Middleweight Bout: #5-Austin Vanderford (11-2) vs. Imamshafi Aliev (9-0)

Lightweight Bout: #9-Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-1) vs. Pieter Buist (17-6)

Bantamweight Bout: #7-Leandro Higo (21-6) vs. Nikita Mikhailov (10-2)

Welterweight Bout: Jaleel Willis (16-4) vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #5-Alex Polizzi (10-2) vs. #8-Karl Moore (11-2)

Heavyweight Bout: Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) vs. Kevin Childs (1-1)

Lightweight Bout: #10-Archie Colgan (7-0) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8)

Lightweight Bout: Mike Hamel (10-5) vs. Shamil Nikaev (10-0)

Middleweight Bout: Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0) vs. Kamil Oniszczuk (9-2)

Featherweight Bout: #8-Timur Khizriev (12-0) vs. Richie Smullen (10-2-1)

Middleweight Bout: Jordan Newman (5-0) vs. Matthew Perry (5-3)

Featherweight Bout: Cody Law (6-2) vs. Edwin Chavez (6-4)

Lightweight Bout: Max Metzgar (Pro Debut) vs. David McKinney (1-3)

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