Hopeful that Bellator event opens door for future big-time shows in Hawaii

  • Nick Celario

Big news delighted Hawaii as it broke that the state would see its next big mixed martial arts show in a decade.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported earlier this week that Honolulu native and women’s flyweight world champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will be the headliner of a Bellator MMA event in December at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.

My phone was buzzing Wednesday morning with notifications of Bellator coming to the Aloha State.

Then, I soon after find out Kauai fighter Timothy “War” Teves is in line to be part of the big show in Honolulu. Teves is undefeated three fights into his pro career.

“I’m beyond grateful right now,” Teves said to TGI on Wednesday. “It’s not 100 percent. It’s confirmed, but right now they have a list of fighters that they want on the show. My managers told me that I’m at the top of the list. I’m trusting with what they say. I’m going to keep my faith strong. I just got to wait until I get the contract signed.”

He added: “This is so huge for me. This is everything I dreamed of. This is everything that I worked hard for. I’ve been putting away top contenders and showing the world I belong in the big leagues, the bigger shows. It so happened the opportunity presented itself.”

When Teves was asked just how big of a deal it was that Bellator is headed over here, he pointed out that it’s not just because a nationally-known MMA promotion would host a show here.

He said it’s a huge deal because Hawaii’s homegrown talent will be showcased in front of a national audience.

“This is huge, man. We have a wave of upcoming Hawaii fighters. We have talent here in Hawaii that needs to be seen,” Teves said. “I’d like to thank Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for making this all happen. She’s the Bellator champion. We need to appreciate her for getting Bellator to come to Hawaii. … Not even Max Holloway could get UFC to come to Hawaii. I’m sure after this fight, UFC will definitely try to make their way out here.”

The Star-Advertiser reported in April that the UFC was planning on hosting a show in Hawaii. The effort was being spearheaded by Holloway, a Waianae native who is UFC’s undisputed featherweight champion.

But that effort eventually fell through and the UFC pulled out when the promotion and the Hawaii Tourism Authority couldn’t come to terms monetarily. It was reported the UFC asked for a $6 million sponsorship fee, and the HTA said it could only afford to offer $1 million.

It’s also worth noting that when Hawaii last hosted the NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in 2016, the NFL received $5.2 million.

It was a shame the UFC and the HTA couldn’t come to terms because I could imagine the kind of buzz that would have created in the state.

Based on the small sample size I’ve seen here on Kauai, it was made apparent how popular combat sports are around here.

I’ve previously reported on events that local promotion Ainofea held on Kauai. Those events I’ve covered drew rather large and frenzied crowds.

And, a lot of these bouts weren’t just backyard brawls between tough guys. They were skilled fighters.

Several of those fights featured local Kauai fighters against men and women from neighbor islands or the mainland.

I’ve seen a little bit of what the state has to offer. And, I’ve gotten more familiar with the ongoings of the MMA scene around the state as I’ve gotten introduced to Oahu promotions and neighbor island fighters on social media.

And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen how crazy the local fight fans can get whenever a big UFC pay-per-view comes around, especially when guys like Holloway, Yancy Medeiros, or whoever on the card is from Hawaii.

(FYI, it was reported Thursday that UFC Hall of Famer and Hawaiian fighting legend B.J. Penn will return to the octagon Dec. 29 to fight The Ultimate Fighter 22 season-winner Ryan Hall. Wow …)

I mean, how many times have you heard someone yell out, “Let’s go, Hawaiian!” or something like that at the TV screen during one of these fights? No matter who it is, fans here will cheer for them with verve, and it is absolutely great.

I can only imagine the roar of the crowd when Bellator rolls through at the Blaisdell Arena come December.

All-in-all, I think it’s worth it for promotions like the UFC, Bellator, etc. to further scope the local talent and to invest in hosting shows here every now and then.

So, I’m hopeful this Bellator event is a major hit and will open avenues for more big MMA shows in Hawaii in the future.

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Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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