by MMAWeekly.com Staff
Bellator Fighting Championships on Friday announced that current featherweight champion Joe Soto will defend his belt for the first time on Sept. 2 against Season 2 tournament winner Joe Warren. The bout takes place at Bellator 27 at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas.
Soto, a native of California’s Central Valley, was a virtual unknown in the MMA world before knocking off Ben Greer, Wilson Reis, and Yahir Reyes to take home the first-ever Bellator featherweight championship belt last June. He recently improved his record to a perfect 9-0 with an impressive May 20 ground and pound stoppage of UFC veteran Diego Saraiva at Bellator 19 in Dallas.
Warren, the former NCAA all-American wrestler at the University of Michigan and two-time Greco-Roman wrestling world champion, burst onto the MMA scene in 2009 with stunning wins over former WEC standout Chase Beebe and Japanese sensation Kid Yamamoto. In 2010, he won Bellator’s Season 2 featherweight tournament with consecutive victories over Eric Marriott, Georgi Karakhanyan, and the previously undefeated Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, improving his overall pro MMA record to 5-1.
“Of our four upcoming world title fights, the Soto-Warren fight is hugely intriguing,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Joe Soto is extremely talented and has made a collection of top ten rankings. Warren’s a world-class wrestler who beat one of the greatest featherweights in the world in just his second fight. He has tremendous heart and he doesn’t understand what the word ‘lose’ means. Joe Soto also comes from a national-caliber wrestling background and anyone who saw his fight with Diego Saraiva in May knows that his game is polished and world-class throughout every facet of MMA. This should be a truly spectacular fight.”
Soto said that he “can’t wait for the fight” and thinks he matches up well against Warren.
“I’m just really excited to get in there and compete against him,” Soto said. “He’s a wrestler just like I am, but I think I can out-wrestle him. If he takes me down, I’m better on my back than he is on top. If we stay standing, I think I can out-box him. No matter where the fight goes, I think I’m a much better all-around fighter than he is.”
Warren, for his part, respectfully disagreed, saying that “after Sept. 2, Joe Warren will have his first belt and that’s going to be big trouble for everyone in this weight division.
“Joe Soto is a tough fighter, but he’s going to see the best Joe Warren that’s ever been in a cage,” Warren said. “We’re both great wrestlers so I’m guessing we’re going to get in there and beat the crap out of each other, but in the end I’m going to be taking that belt home with me.”