PARIS, FRANCE (May 10, 2023) – Ahead of this weekend’s return to Paris, France for a star-studded night of fights at BELLATOR 296: Mousasi vs. Edwards, several of the card’s world-class athletesspoke to the media today before descending upon the Accor Arena this Friday, May 12. BELLATOR 296 will air LIVE on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. CEST/4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, with prelims airing at 5:30 p.m. CEST/11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV. A small number of tickets remain and can be purchased at and

In the main event of BELLATOR 296, former Middleweight World Champion and MMA legend Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2) will look to set up a championship rematch with the cageside titleholder Johnny Eblen in a marquee matchup with surging star Fabian Edwards (11-2), who believes a win over the future Hall of Famer moves him one step closer to joining brother Leon Edwards as world champion.

In the co-main event, the $1,000,000 BELLATOR Lightweight Grand Prix continues when former Lightweight World Champion Brent Primus (11-3) hopes to make good on his late entry to the tournament against BELLATOR’s newest European star, submission ace Mansour Barnaoui (20-4), in the Tunisian-Frenchman’s backyard of Paris.

Elsewhere on the main card, former Welterweight World Champion Douglas Lima (32-11) will make his full-time jump to the middleweight division when he takes on talented Dutch standout Costello van Steenis (14-2) in a matchup of hard-kicking contenders. Plus, France’s Thibault Gouti (14-6) will aim to give the Parisian crowd something to cheer for when he battles fellow exciting lightweight Kane Mousah (14-4).

Here’s what the select fighters from Friday’s BELLATOR 296 event had to say:

Gegard Mousasi — No. 1-Ranked BELLATOR Middleweight and Former World  Champion – (VIDEO)

On his training camp preparations for Fabian Edwards: “I focused on wrestling and stand-up. [My teammate and former Edwards opponent Costello van Steenis] warned me about the danger of his left hand, how he’s able to strike from a distance when you think you’re not in danger. We’ll see how the fight goes. Costello was actually injured in that fight, so I think I should be ready.”

On his desire to fight in the Netherlands: “Always. If they come to Amsterdam, I would fight one more. But it’s up to the government. I think BELLATOR can easily come to Holland. I think it’ll work out eventually, but it just takes a little more time. They were very close last time. It’s all about time. Eventually, it will happen, I think.”

On his relationship with BELLATOR and Scott Coker: “I think I had a relationship with Scott [Coker] from Strikeforce. I don’t know if I’m one of these guys, but I know BELLATOR has some of the best fighters in the world. They’re all guys who can compete with and beat UFC champions. It’s the best roster they’ve ever had, and the level of competition has gotten tougher… I can definitely see some of them beating the champions now. I mean, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight. I think, below heavyweight, I’d give everyone a good chance of winning.”

“I just have to have the mentality of going into the fight and just letting it go. Last fight, [Johnny Eblen] caught me in the first round and I fucked up after that. So, we’re just going to go and put the pressure on [Edwards this Friday night].”

On the fight with Eblen: “I think he was more hungry. He was better prepared. The fight after me, against Tokov, he did pretty well, also. He showed he’s someone to take seriously and not take lightly. He’s a serious fighter and a good champion. First Edwards, and then we go for another shot.”

On whether Eblen or Edwards is the tougher fight: “You never know if it’s going to be an easy fight. A lot can change in eleven months. I think Johnny Eblen is a better fighter [than Edwards], but everyone has different weapons. I don’t know if it’s going to be easier, but I think Johnny Eblen is better.”

Fabian Edwards — No. 2-Ranked BELLATOR Middleweight – (VIDEO)

On the similarities between van Steenis and Mousasi:“I believe they’re very similar. I’ve grown a lot from that fight.”

On brother Leon Edwards: “Leon’s here, and Leon always helps. For this camp, I’ve had the same coaches around. Everyone pulled together, and we’ve had a good game plan; a good training camp. I’ve been focusing on what I need to do, developing my game, and making sure I’m fit.”

On his road to this main event: “It’s always good to know your path, rather than random fights. BELLATOR gave me the path, and I’m on the way to getting that belt.”

On champion Johnny Eblen’s press conference quotes: “I didn’t make nothing [of it], ‘cuz when I see him around the hotel, he doesn’t say anything to me. So, I don’t make anything of his energy.”

On his tense face-off with Mousasi during fight week: “I’m just letting him know that I’m here, and I don’t fear him one bit.”

“After I win this fight, I will be shouting for a Birmingham show, and let’s hope they can make it happen.”

“I’m calm. Very, very calm considering it’s a main event. I think it’s all the work that I’ve done. I know everyone says, ‘It’s been the best camp’ and all that, but I’m in good shape. I’m not suffering. I ate jellybeans yesterday. That’s down to my preparation these last weeks.”

“There’s always violence when I’m in there. I’m smart and calculated, but there’s always violence. We’ll see when I put Mousasi in there, if he can take the damage. I’m going to bring that violence. Me and my team see a lot of holes we can exploit. That’s the beauty of this game. On Friday night, we get a chance to really do it. Put on the gloves and let them do the talking.”

On him and Leon being the best MMA siblings ever if he wins the title: “I’m trying to make that history, and I’m two steps away from it. Friday night, after I do my job, I’m one step away. When I bring that belt home, no one can say otherwise. I don’t think it’s been done at the same time in different promotions. When I get that belt, we can say that — definitely.”

On taking out legends in BELLATOR: “Who can say they’ve got [Lyoto] Machida and Mousasi on their record? I’ve already finished this one. Whether I finish another, we’ll see on Friday night. But I’m going to win. I just believe my 100% is better than his 100%.”

Mansour Barnaoui — No. 8-Ranked Lightweight and World Grand Prix Quarterfinalist – (VIDEO)

On his new matchup with Brent Primus: “I heard about [the opponent change] a month and a half ago. I didn’t change much in the preparation, even if they have different styles. I didn’t really change anything, and I’m looking forward to the matchup… Being an ex-champion has its significance, but it’s just a new fight. I’m going to be careful and look after everything, but I’m also a fighter, so I have a mindset to win every fight. I’m excited that it’s another world champion to face.”

On added attention after his BELLATOR debut: “I’m a fighter, and I fight. After I fight, I go back [to train and be] with my team. I’m not too focused on what people are saying on social media. Whatever people are saying, good or bad, I try not to let it enter my mind.”

On his oft-used rear-naked choke submission: “It’s something I do. It’s part of my style, my fighting technique. Whenever a situation presents itself to do it, I will capitalize on that opportunity.”

On his experience with tournaments: “Regarding the preparation, it doesn’t change much. You have to adapt quickly to the styles of different opponents; it’s a tournament, so there are many opponents. You have to try to avoid injury, of course, but the preparation is largely the same and remains important.”

On BELLATOR’s activity in Europe being a factor in his choosing the promotion in free agency: “It’s one of the reasons that made me sign with BELLATOR, among other things like the [Lightweight World Grand Prix] tournament and fighting for the belt. But, [BELLATOR’s emphasis on Europe] is definitely one of the reasons why I signed here.”

On fighting for the title next if he wins Friday: “The motivation is there. I’m looking to win more and more and more. Obviously, fighting for the title is my preferred match in BELLATOR. It’s something I’m looking forward to and appreciate. Like I said, I want to fight. Whenever I have an opponent, I’ll fight him. If it’s the champion, even better.”

Brent Primus — No. 4-Ranked Lightweight and Grand Prix Quarterfinalist – (VIDEO)

“I was definitely upset that I wasn’t in the tournament, but I stayed focused and in the gym. I prayed every day that I’d be in the tournament, and here I am. There are eight guys in the tournament, so I knew that anything could happen. I feel like this is where I should’ve been in the first place. I was not happy. I prayed every day, and here I am.”

On fighting for the title next with a victory: “It’s going to be awesome, but I’ve got a tough test in front of me on Friday. [My opponent] Mansour [Barnaoui] is no joke, so I’m going to go out there on Friday and fight like my life depends on it. First Friday night, then Usman’s next.”

On Barnaoui’s BELLATOR debut: “I was impressed. Adam Piccolotti’s no joke on the ground. He swept him with that famous sweep of his, then he choked him. I don’t think he can choke me, and honestly, I don’t think he wants to go to the ground with me. But I’m comfortable on the ground, I’m comfortable on the feet, and I’m ready for Friday night.”

On his preparations for Barnaoui’s submissions: “I haven’t been choked out once this camp, and I spent hours and hours with world-class black belts on my back trying to finish me. I’ve trained with Lucas Barbosa, who’s a world champ. So, he won’t choke me — that’s for sure.”

“I don’t think he’s fought anyone with my skillset. This is BELLATOR; we’re a lot tougher than the guys in ROAD FC, so if he thinks he can just walk through me because he won a tournament in ROAD FC, it’s different here. You can’t underestimate any opponent. I know Mansour has not fought anyone like me. I bring a different skillset to his game. I think it’s going to be a tough fight for him. I know he’s tough, but I’m ready for Friday night.”

“You’re going to see a great fight. I’m going to be explosive, fast, methodical, and calculated. I’m going to get my hand raised.”

Douglas Lima — BELLATOR Middleweight and Former Welterweight World Champion – (VIDEO)

On opponent Costello van Steenis: “I never say no. I needed a fight, they gave me [Costello van Steenis], and I said yes. He’s very explosive. He’s hungry. He’s a guy who wants to make his name in the promotion and in the division. He’s got great training partners. I know I need to be on top of my game to win this fight.”

On the fight with van Steenis: “We’ll see. You never know until the fight starts. He throws a lot of kicks and punches, so it should be a great fight. He’s a good opponent, so let’s see… I looked at a few fights; I’m not a guy who deeply studies my opponents. He’s very aggressive, very powerful. He’s a big guy. I did everything I could to prepare for him — my coaches studied him more. There are never any easy fights, so it’ll just be another of those.”

On moving up to middleweight full-time: “I always thought middleweight would be the place for me. I feel good. I don’t think I’ll ever be the biggest middleweight, but at least I’m healthier. I was very upset with myself when I missed weight in my last fight. I definitely feel a lot healthier; I didn’t have to cut as much weight as I usually do, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m focusing just on training instead of cutting weight.”

On his recent outcomes: “For me, it’s part of the game. We play a tough sport. Everyone I fight is good; I’ve been fighting the No. 1 and No. 2 guys. A lot of times, I stepped in there and didn’t feel like myself. I don’t know why. The camps would be great, but something was off. But I’m not thinking about those losses. The biggest thing is to be at my best, so I’m doing everything I can to be my best on Friday night.”

Costello van Steenis — No. 10-Ranked BELLATOR Middleweight – (VIDEO)

On fighting so close to his home of the Netherlands: “This is great. The support is extra motivation; extra energy. At the end of the day, you’re fighting one on one, but with all the support, it’s like you’ve got the whole clique with you.”

“A few fights ago, I was watching Douglas Lima thinking, ‘I want to be kicking like that.’ Now, I’m fighting him. So, it’s an honor.”

On the fight with Douglas Lima: “When I first heard the news, I was really excited. I was like, ‘Can we not do it a few months earlier?’ That couldn’t be arranged, but no problem. Like I said, this is great. He’s a big guy; a big name. This is a perfect fight for me to show who I am and become a big name myself. This means a lot to me. Lima is definitely a bigger name than anyone in the Top 10. He’s won the welterweight tournament, he’s been a welterweight champion. This guy is a legend, and to become a legend you need to destroy a legend. I’ll be happy when I’m in the Top 3 like I used to be, but we’ll get there.”

On training alongside Gegard Mousasi: “We’ve been training so hard and so smart for this fight. I believe this is my best training camp ever. Last time, I was out of the game for three years and I showed you what I can do. Now, I’m back, and I’m comfortable. Gegard’s been helping me for my opponent, and I’ve been helping him for his opponent. I’m ready to show everyone what I can do again.”

On Lima’s recent fights: “I’ve watched some of his fights, especially his last fights. I don’t know what to make of his performances. Maybe his hunger’s gone, or maybe he’s hungrier than ever. Either it’s going to be a dogfight or a dogfight, but I’ll win the dogfight. I’m coming.”

On the potential of a BELLATOR Netherlands event: “I believe it’s going to be happening soon; maybe 2024. They’re saying the winner of Gegard and [Fabian] Edwards is going to fight for the belt. I believe Gegard is going to win — he’s been sharper than he’s ever been, I think. So, maybe [he and champion Johnny Eblen] fight for the belt in the Netherlands. But, I’m the one whose next. So, maybe I fight for the belt in the Netherlands.”

On former rival John Salter praising his potential: “John Salter is a great guy. It’s a shame he retired. With all due respect, that’s something that really stings for me. He gave me my first and only loss in the BELLATOR cage, [and I hoped to get that win back]. But, the real ones know. The real ones know I should be fighting for belts real soon.”

On the main event: “Like I said before, I’m sure that Gegard’s going to win. So, I think that Fabian and I should definitely run it back since he has second place [in the rankings]. I think it’s bullshit that he’s in the Top 10 since I beat him. But, I have to focus on what I have to focus on, and hopefully, I give you a good show. After giving you guys a good show, hopefully, I can prove I deserve it.”

To fans in the United States: “Grab your coffees — make sure they’re nice and warm; you don’t want to miss this fight.”

Thibault Gouti — BELLATOR Lightweight – (VIDEO)

On his inclusion on BELLATOR’s Paris return: “I’m very happy to come back to Paris, especially because it’s my country and it’s a beautiful event. I’m very happy. I was very excited about [this matchup] because it means BELLATOR trusts me. I will do my best to show that I deserve this opportunity.”

On the exciting nature of his matchup with Kane Mousah: “I already look to make the Fight of the Night. If I could win easily, it would be better, but there’s never an easy fight. You always have to fight. [My opponent Kane Mousah] seems to be a good fighter: he has good striking and good wrestling. So, it will be a difficult fight, a war, but I know that victory is always better when you go through war. I will be ready.”

On BELLATOR signing him: “Honestly, I think I earned my respect outside the UFC. I think I deserve my shot, and I’m very happy that BELLATOR chose me to be a part of their company because I’m very happy here.”

On the added pressure of fighting at home: “There is pressure; there is always pressure because it’s a fight, and you have to win. But there’s also pressure because it’s my country, so I want to win [in front of my hometown fans and countrymen].”

“I have to get back in the win column. This is MMA. It’s not soccer or anything like that, where you can lose two, or three times in a row. In MMA, when you lose two or three times, you’re already on your way out. I have to win.”

“My prediction for this fight is that I will win. I don’t know the manner, but I will do it. I will find a way to win in the striking or the wrestling. I will get it done. I have to.”

Kane Mousah — BELLATOR Lightweight – (VIDEO)

“First of all, the whole of the card is electric. It’s a card stacked from the first fight all the way through with a lot of great fighters. Everybody knows what’s going to happen with my fight; we’re going to meet in the center, and it’ll be a war of attrition. You can see by the performances in my past, I’m a main card fighter. If you want action, someone to come forward, to show what real MMA fighting is, I’m your man for it.”

On his inclusion on the main card: “I feel like it’s a long time coming. I know my last fight against Georgi [Karakhanyan] demanded this. Regardless of if [your fights] are exciting or not, it’s about the wins in losses. But I’m an exciting fighter, he’s an exciting fighter. It’ll be a great fight.”

On the fight with Thibault Gouti: “It doesn’t matter about my last fight or [my opponent Thibault Gouti’s] last fight. He’s a great opponent. It’s exciting to see how this one’s going to play out… I went out to Thailand to focus on what I do best, and at home, tweaked up specifics based on the opponent that I’ll face. We’re ready. I don’t say this lightly. I mean this with intention. A fight’s a fight; it can go any way. But in this one, when it comes down to will, this one is mine. I’m going to put something on this guy until he realizes that it’s my time and not his. I’m going in there to give everything I’ve got. This is a main card-worthy fight, regardless.”

“We’ve got a stacked lightweight division, and I’m just excited to be a part of it. This fight will put me at the top of it, and next year will be a big year. Wait, why am I saying next year? This year will be a big year.”

“I’m just ready. I’m in a position mentally where I know that this is my time. No matter what my opponent comes to do, this is my time. I’ve set the line in my mind. I’ve done everything I need to do. I’m not coming to play games, and I know my opponent knows I’m not coming to play games. I’m confident everywhere, but more than everything, my mindset is at an all-time high. Especially with my work in Thailand, everything’s at an all-time high.”

Chris Gonzalez – BELLATOR Lightweight (VIDEO)

Tim Wilde – BELLATOR Lightweight (VIDEO)

Denise Kielholtz – Former BELLATOR Kickboxing Flyweight Champion (VIDEO)

Steven Hill – BELLATOR Welterweight (VIDEO)

Davy Gallon – BELLATOR Lightweight (VIDEO)



SHOWTIME | BBC iPlayer (U.K.) | RMC Sport (France)

May 12 — 10 p.m. CEST/9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT

Middleweight Main Event: #1-Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2) vs. #2-Fabian Edwards (11-2)

Lightweight World Grand Prix Co-Main Event: #4-Brent Primus (11-3)vs. #8-Mansour Barnaoui (20-4)

Middleweight Bout: Douglas Lima (32-11) vs. #10-Costello van Steenis (14-2)

Lightweight Bout: Thibault Gouti (14-6) vs. Kane Mousah (14-4)


BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | BBC iPlayer (U.K.) | Pluto TV

5:30 p.m. CEST/4:30 p.m. BST/11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT

Flyweight Bout: #6-Denise Kielholtz (6-5) vs. Paula Cristina (6-1)

Welterweight Bout: Oliver Enkamp (11-3) vs. Luca Poclit (8-1)

Lightweight Bout: Davy Gallon (21-8-2) vs. Saul Rogers (15-5)

Featherweight Bout: Yves Landu (18-9) vs. Piotr Niedzielski (17-5)

Contract Weight Bout (141 lbs): Sarvarjon Khamidov (14-0) vs. Kevin Petshi (18-5)

Lightweight Bout: Chris Gonzalez (8-2) vs. Tim Wilde (15-4-1)

Featherweight Bout: Fabacary Diatta (8-1) vs. Keir Harvie (5-2-2)

Contract Weight Bout (150 lbs): Asael Adjoudj (5-1) vs. Georges Sasu (4-2)

Welterweight Bout: Bourama Camara (5-2) vs. Romain Debienne (8-4)

Light Heavyweight Bout: Simon Biyong (9-2) vs. Jose Augusto (7-4, 1 NC)

Welterweight Bout: Steven Hill (7-0) vs. Nicolo Solli (4-1, 1 NC)

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