Michael Chandler 478x270Bellator No. 1 lightweight contender and Season 7 tournament winner Dave Jansen has withdrawn from his Bellator 96 challenge of champion Michael Chandler due to an ACL injury.

Chandler will still defend his belt, but that won’t happen until Bellator 97 on July 31, and he’ll do so against Season 8 tournament winner David Rickels, who now leap-frogs Jansen.

Bellator officials announced the change Sunday morning.

“I’m already back in the gym getting ready for the biggest test of my career,” Rickels said. “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.”

Rickels defeated Saad Awad at Bellator 94 at the end of March. Now, he’ll make the quick turn for a shot at Bellator gold.

“Chandler is going to bring a huge challenge, but I know I need to focus on my takedown defense, and just push the pace,” he added. “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.”

Jansen is obviously disappointed, but intends to heal and then jump right back into his well-earned title challenge.

“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,” Jansen said. “It’s really devastating to me knowing I was so close to getting my shot, but I talked to Bjorn 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.”

Bellator 96 will still take place as scheduled on June 19 at the WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma, but will now feature Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal vs. Seth Petruzelli in a light heavyweight tournament main event bout.

Bellator  96 on June 19th

Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament:
King Mo Lawal (9-2) vs. Seth Petruzelli (14-7)

Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament:
Renato “Babalu” Sobral (37-10) vs. Jacob Noe (11-2)

Bellator Heavyweight Tournament:
Vitaly Minakov (10-0) vs. Ron Sparks (8-1)

Welterweight Feature Fight:
War Machine (12-4) vs. Blas Avena (8-6)

Bellator Heavyweight Tournament:
Vinicius “Spartan” Queiroz (6-3) vs. Rich Hale (21-5)

Bellator 97 on July 31st

Bellator Lightweight Title Fight:
Michael Chandler (11-0) vs. David Rickels (14-1)

Bellator Welterweight Title Fight:
Ben Askren (11-0) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (13-0)

Bellator Welterweight Tournament Finals:
Douglas Lima (24-5) vs. Ben Saunders (16-5-2)

Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament Finals:
TBD vs. TBD

Bellator Featherweight Feature Fight:
Patricio Pitbull (17-2) vs. Rob Emerson (12-10)

(Photo of Michael Chandler courtesy of Bellator MMA)

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