LOS ANGELES – Today, BELLATOR officials announced that a pivotal heavyweight bout between No. 7-ranked Marcelo Golm (10-3) and No. 8-ranked Daniel James (14-6-1) has been booked to headline the promotion’s Friday, March 31 return to Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Calif. for Bellator 293.
In the card’s co-main event, San Diego’s top-ranked Cat Zingano (13-4) returns to featherweight action against the No. 4-ranked Leah McCourt (7-2) of Ireland. Additionally, a middleweight contest between No. 4-ranked John Salter (18-6) and No. 6-ranked Aaron Jeffrey (13-3) is official for the main card, as well as a 170-pound tilt showcasing No. 10-ranked Jaleel Willis (16-4) against 13-fight UFC veteran Rustam Khabilov (24-4), who will be making his BELLATOR MMA debut.
The main card of BELLATOR 293: Golm vs. James will be broadcast live in the U.S. on Friday, March 31 on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
A special ticket presale for the event will take place between Tuesday, January 24 – Thursday, January 26, while the general public on sale begins Thursday, January 26 at 3 p.m. PT. Tickets will be available at the Pechanga box office, as well as Bellator.com, Ticketmaster.com and Pechanga.com.
The preliminary card is also taking shape, with the addition of a marquee clash between two undefeated 155-pounders, when Archie Colgan (6-0) takes on Justin Montalvo (5-0). Also, at lightweight, “Magic” Mike Hamel (9-5) faces “Nyquil” Nick Browne (13-2) and Jay-Jay Wilson (9-1) fights Mandel Nallo (9-2, 1 NC). These along with more soon to be announced bouts will air live at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel, and Pluto TV.
Brazil’s Marcelo Golm sports a well-earned reputation among fight fans as a punishing finisher, boasting a remarkable 100% stoppage rate replete with seven knockouts and three submissions. He has demonstrated that fight-ending ability in spades since joining BELLATOR, scoring a first-round knockout of Billy Swanson in his promotional debut before submitting Davion Franklin with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their thrilling BELLATOR 283 scrap. The win over Franklin catapulted the 30-year-old into title contention, and at BELLATOR 293, Golm will look to solidify his status as a top contender in the division with an emphatic victory over fellow behemoth Daniel James.
Nicknamed “The American Predator,” Daniel James stunned the MMA world at BELLATOR 288 with a thunderous, come-from-behind knockout of then-No. 5-ranked Tyrell Fortune in the second round of their heavyweight clash. The hulking James, 41, continues to prove that age is just a number; the win over Fortune was James’ fourth straight victory, all four of which came by way of knockout. Proudly representing Chicago, James will get the opportunity to prove that the result of his first BELLATOR fight in eight years was no fluke and assert himself as a veritable title contender when the cage door closes behind him and Golm in Temecula on March 31.
“Alpha” Cat Zingano is one of mixed martial arts’ pioneering female fighters, but she has no plans on closing the book on her impressive résumé just yet. Zingano, 40, became a standout in wrestling before transitioning to MMA; she was a multi-time All-American wrestler at the NCAA Division III level, where she also became a national champion. The jiu-jitsu black belt has continued achieving success since joining BELLATOR in 2020, rattling off three straight wins in dominant fashion over Gabrielle Holloway, Olivia Parker, and Pam Sorenson. Ranked first in the women’s featherweight division and as BELLATOR’s No. 4 pound-for-pound female talent, Zingano will look to set up a showdown with champion Cris Cyborg with a highlight-reel victory over McCourt this March.
One of BELLATOR’s fastest-rising stars, Ireland’s Leah “The Curse” McCourt will face her toughest test to date in this compelling old school vs. new school matchup between top featherweight contenders. McCourt, a former amateur world champion and a judo black belt, has won seven of her last eight fights including a unanimous decision over Dayana Silva in front of a raucous Dublin crowd at BELLATOR 285. The 30-year-old is the No. 4-ranked contender in the division over which she one day hopes to reign, and she will look to move up from her place at eighth in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings by defeating a living legend in Zingano.
In a clash of top-five middleweight contenders, Canadian star Aaron Jeffery will look to continue his impressive start to his BELLATOR tenure against perennial contender John Salter. The mullet-donning 30-year-old has scored two emphatic knockouts in his first two BELLATOR outings, including a first-round finish of former title challenger Austin Vanderford. Meanwhile, Salter aims to return to the win column after coming up just short to champion Johnny Eblen and ex-titlist Gegard Mousasi in successive outings.
Fresh off of a thrilling defeat of standout wrestler Kyle Crutchmer, Memphis’ Jaleel “The Realest” Willis will look to continue his upward momentum in the welterweight division by welcoming Russia’s Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov to the BELLATOR cage. Willis, 30, has won three of his five BELLATOR fights and looked much-improved against Crutchmer thanks to his time training at Kill Cliff FC. Dagestan’s Khabilov has different plans for his promotional debut, and he aims to establish himself as an immediate contender for the title with a dominant performance against Willis. The well-credentialed and well-rounded 36-year-old has been there and done then, sporting victories over Jorge Masvidal, Yancy Medeiros, and Chris Wade among his admirable resumé.
BELLATOR 293: GOLM VS. JAMES FIGHT CARD:
MAIN CARD SHOWTIME Friday, March 31 — 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT
Heavyweight Main Event: #7-Marcelo Golm (10-3) vs. #8-Daniel James (14-6-1)
Featherweight Co-Main Event: #1-Cat Zingano (13-4) vs. #4-Leah McCourt (7-2)
Middleweight Bout: #4-John Salter (18-6) vs. #6-Aaron Jeffrey (13-3)
Welterweight Bout: #10-Jaleel Willis (16-4) vs. Rustam Khabilov (24-4)
PRELIMINARY CARD BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel | SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel | Pluto TV 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT:
Lightweight Bout: Archie Colgan (6-0) vs. Justin Montalvo (5-0)
Lightweight Bout: Mike Hamel (9-5) vs. Nick Browne (13-2)
Lightweight Bout: Jay-Jay Wilson (9-1) vs. Mandel Nallo (9-2, 1 NC)
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.