Bellator return to the nation’s capital on Saturday, June 22nd from the SSE Arena, Wembley for arguably the biggest European show in the promotion’s history. The huge, nineteen fight card is stacked from top to bottom with international and domestic stars all looking to make their mark and steal Sunday’s headlines. For the first time ever, Sky Sports and Channel 5 split broadcast duties giving Bellator the most exposure they have ever had on a single evening in the UK. The card is so full to the brim with talent that one of the biggest breakout stars from Newcastle earlier in the year can only grab a spot on the preliminary card. Scotland’s Chris Bungard (14-4) returns to the cage and hopes to continue his surge when he takes on Charlie Leary (15-10-1) in the lightweight division.
Bungard made his Bellator debut back in February at the inaugural European Series event and pulled off a huge upset when he defeated the former two-weight BAMMA world champion, Terry Brazier. Once the fight began, Brazier closed the distance straight away and crowded Bungard against the cage. Both men exchanged position along the fence until Bungard looked for the takedown but his opponent didn’t allow him to clasp hands to gain full control of the lower body. However, following a brief opening, Bungard took Brazier’s back, secured the body triangle and forced the tap with a rear naked choke. Only the Scotsman’s team and his most loyal supporters envisaged him getting a win but he didn’t expect the fight to be as simple as it was.
“I thought my last fight against Terry was going to be a three round war,” said Bungard. “I didn’t expect to get an early finish but I’m happy with it as we trained to get the stoppage. We didn’t just bank on that though so we also trained to be well-conditioned to go all three rounds. I thought we would go the distance but that’s not what ended up happening.”
“The victory was obviously very satisfying because Terry spoke a lot before the fight, as did I,” Bungard continued. “It was a good build up to the contest. Terry has fought some great guys so to put him away quite easily like I did was really gratifying. After the fight is over, you should show respect but I think he was a bit upset that he lost. These things happen in the game and you learn more from a loss as you come back hungrier – well certain people do. Some people don’t come back at all so we’ll see how Terry responds now. He really needs a win in his next fight. Coming into Bellator, he was a two-weight world champion and was signed for big bucks but then this dude from Scotland came in and cleaned him out. Hopefully I can take that momentum into my next fight and we’ll see where Terry goes from here.”
The talking before the fight that Bungard was alluding to came in the form of a number of back and forth exchanges between the pair. Bungard announced that he would retire from MMA if he was finished by the Englishman which indicated that he didn’t think much of his adversary’s finishing ability while Brazier hit back at the man he referred to as ‘Bumgard’ saying that he was definitely looking past him. All of the exchanges garnered lots of fan attention which made it one of the most anticipated bouts on the Newcastle show. Even when it was all said and done, Bungard didn’t like the way Brazier acted and shrugged off any mention of a rematch after Brazier said he wanted one due to being in and out of hospital during the week of the fight.
“I extended my hand in respect after the bout but he wasn’t really having it,” claimed Bungard. “Then I put up a post up on Twitter thanking him for the fight but he responded like a b***h saying he was injured and he shouldn’t have stepped into the cage that night. I can tell you right now I was a hobbling mess that fight camp and dealt with different injuries but you just shut up and get on with it. You fight through it. I was up against it on national TV as well, on a big show, against a tough opponent and I just shut up about my injuries. I trained hard, made the weight, walked to the cage and finished him. I think other people need to learn from the way Terry acted after a loss because he took it like a b***h.”
“No, I’m not really interested in a rematch,” stated Bungard. “I could see the point if it was a three round war or if it was a close decision. Maybe if he got robbed on the scorecards I’d be interested in fighting him again but I was thinking about that dude for a long time during all of my preparations and I won in two minutes. I don’t even want to think about that guy for a while unless he goes on a seven fight win streak where we could potentially headline somewhere as a result. That is the only possibility of facing him again. I’ve got so many other guys lined up now and I’m concentrating on them.”
When it was announced that Charlie Leary was his next opponent, many fans were left disappointed that Bungard wasn’t competing against a bigger name with some saying that it seemed like a step down in opponent. Leary won his Bellator debut at Wembley arena last year, defeating Tom Green by TKO before dropping a decision to Paul Redmond in Dublin a few months ago. Bungard wasn’t disappointed when he found out who his next adversary would be and believes that fans shouldn’t be so quick to overlook Leary as an opponent.
“I don’t expect to face any particular fighter so I wasn’t annoyed when the contract came through,” explained Bungard. “Bellator just come to me with a guy to fight and I accept it. It’s just one contest at a time for me. As for Charlie Leary, I’m up against it again! He is a tough guy with good, heavy hands and is really durable. He’s been in a lot of wars, fought some great guys and won a lot of belts. If Terry Brazier had fought the guys Leary’s fought, maybe they’d have similar records. I’m expecting a war in a three round battle which ends with me hopefully getting my hand raised.”
“I was a bit disappointed not being on the main card but I get it as it’s the big London show,” discussed Bungard. “There’s a world title fight, Paul Daley, Melvin Manhoef and James Gallagher so it’s a stacked main card. I’m still quite high up the bill and I think anywhere else in Europe I’d be on the main card. I just need to keep winning so it doesn’t matter where I am on the card. Ultimately, I need to go out there and perform.”
Bungard used to travel to the famed SBG Ireland team in Dublin to help with his fight preparations up until recently when an instagram message from fellow lightweight, Peter Queally, was posted attacking the Scotsman out of the blue. It claimed that the Irishman had ‘toyed’ with Bungard during training, that he had turned down a fight with Queally and that he was not welcome back at the gym. In a later interview, Queally commented that Bellator had informed him that he would face Bungard in Dublin later this year. The 30-year-old is puzzled as to why Queally went on the attack but made it very clear that he won’t let the Irishman dictate future matchups to him.
“The whole Peter Queally thing is a weird one,” said Bungard. “I’ve been going to SBG Ireland for the last four or five years and we were alright. Me and Peter spoke all of the time, shared the mat and I thought we were all good. I sparred with him before the Brazier fight and he was supporting me but then once he lost to Myles Price, all of a sudden people were asking for the two of us to fight. I sent him a text and then he answered back saying that he wanted us both to push for a matchup so we could co-headline or main event a card. He said if we sold it right, we could be the biggest fight in Europe but I’m not interested in stuff like that.”
“Soon after, weirdly and out of nowhere, he put pictures up from our spar which was a total rat move,” stated Bungard. “Then he went about saying we were going to fight but he definitely doesn’t call the shots! He’s won one fight in his last five or something, he lost his last fight in Bellator and has just pulled out of the Brazier fight. I love going to Dublin to put in work but now I can’t go back. I’m not fighting there later this year and I won’t be facing Peter either. He’s not a draw even though he thinks he might be. Peter definitely doesn’t tell me who or where I’m fighting; I’ll decide.”
The Scotsman has recently started training in MMA full time after he was sacked from his previous job in the steel industry for pretending to be sick when in reality he was travelling to train or watch his beloved Celtic. Due to the money that Bellator are paying many of its fighters, losing his job was no big deal and he believes things have actually worked out for the best. Bungard, who has won 50% of his victories by submission, knows that he can now put his full attention into being the best martial artist he can be.
He has an incredible travelling support who follow him wherever he is fighting and they always make themselves heard. Bungard said that London will not be any different as there are many people making the journey south to spur him on. He has previously mentioned wanting to bring Bellator to Scotland so he can compete closer to his fans and this is still something that he has his eyes set firmly on.
“I definitely hold the key for a future show in my home country,” claimed Bungard. “I’m the only Scottish fighter that has ever signed for Bellator so I’m flying the flag solo in the company. I took Newcastle by storm and hopefully I will take London by storm so I’ll keep that momentum going. After that, I’ll be ready to bring Bellator to the Hydro. I know I could draw a big, big crowd who would bring the atmosphere. If you think about it, I live just down the road from there so if people are willing to travel to Newcastle and London to see me, they will definitely jump two minutes in a motor to pack the Hydro and take the roof off the place. I guarantee it!”
The Bellator London preliminary card can be streamed live on the Bellator App from 4:30pm BST on Saturday evening.
Image courtesy of Bellator.