The lineup for Bellator 96 took a significant hit this week when contender Dave Jansen was forced out of a title-fight with lightweight champion Michael Chandler due to an ACL injury. Though the specific nature of his affliction may not be public knowledge, it is at least serious enough to keep him out of action for more than a month, as the promotion has confirmed David Rickels’ role as a replacement.
“It was just sort of a freak injury that happened in grappling, I heard a pop and after visiting the doctor, my fears were confirmed,” said Jansen in a press release when asked to describe what happened. “It’s really devastating to me knowing I was so close to getting my shot, but I talked to Bjorn Rebney and the Bellator team and they confirmed I’ll be getting my title shot when I’m healthy and ready to go, so I’m going to recover and train as hard as I ever have, and hopefully when I get back into the cage it’s more rewarding than ever.”
Rickels won a Season 8 tournament to earn the shot at the unbeaten Chandler. He holds an overall record of 14-1 including nine finishes.
“I’m already back in the gym getting ready for the biggest test of my career,” explained Rickels of the opportunity. “I was prepared for another few months off with Jansen already in line for his title shot, but when I got the news I was pumped because I got to enjoy myself for a while after the tournament, but now I’m ready to fight for that belt. Chandler is going to bring a huge challenge, but I know I need to focus on my takedown defense, and just push the pace. I’ve got to hurt Mike early, let him know I’m not playing around. I think he fights off of confidence more than anything else, so I’m looking to put a lot of doubt into his head early in this fight. Either way, I just can’t wait until July 31st.”
As alluded to by Rickels, Chandler will now put his gold up for grabs on July 31 at Bellator 97 based on the change instead of at a June 19 show as previously expected. It is believed a light heavyweight tournament semifinal scrap between Muhammed Lawal-Seth Petruzelli will now serve as the evening’s main event.