Bellator Fighting Championships today announced the acquisition of one of MMA’s most heralded free agents, 19-2 welterweight standout Dan Hornbuckle.
“When we began the recruiting process for Season 2 and beyond, Dan Hornbuckle was one of our top targets,” said Bjorn Rebney, founder and CEO of Bellator Fighting Championships. “To be able to land a fighter like Dan is another sign of our commitment to bring world class fights to MMA fans on a weekly basis.”
Rebney has confirmed that, with Hornbuckle’s signing, he has also received an invitation to compete in Bellator’s upcoming eight-man welterweight tournament, which commences during Bellator’s Season 2 kickoff on April 8, 2010. Bellator will also conduct tournaments at 145, 155, and 185 lbs. with the winners of this year’s tournaments being declared number one contenders to Bellator’s current cache of champions.
Nicknamed “The Handler,” Hornbuckle, 28, has been a highly-touted prospect since compiling a sensational 8-1 record as a rookie in 2006. However, it wasn’t until two-high profile wins in Japan earlier this year that he was able to shed his blue chip prospect label in favor of being known as an elite, world-class competitor.
In August, Hornbuckle sent shockwaves through the industry with his brutal knockout of PRIDE and UFC veteran Akihiro Gono following a devastating high kick. The fantastic finish will go down as one of the most memorable of 2009.
For an encore, Hornbuckle made a statement following the Gono win just six weeks later when he TKO’d former BodogFIGHT welterweight champion Nick Thompson just 1:30 into Round 2. With the win, Hornbuckle closed out 2009 with a perfect 3-0 record and improved his record to a remarkable 18-1 over the course of his last 19 contests.
A versatile and well-rounded fighter, Hornbuckle has earned a reputation for being one of the toughest fighters in a sport in which toughness is a given. He says that much of his strength is derived from his Native American ancestry. A member of the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe, Hornbuckle fights out of Cherokee, N.C.
“My heritage is where I pull my energy from,” he says. “Every time I fight, I feel like my whole tribe is there with me inside the cage.”
A union sprinkler-fitter who lives in the small town of Mahomet in Central Illinois with his wife Melody and three daughters (ages 11, 7 and 21 months), Hornbuckle says he plans on winning the Bellator Season 2 welterweight tournament and aspires to someday become a legend in the sport.
“I want to be a guy who people bring up whenever they talk about MMA,” he said. “I want to be the name that all the guys on the construction sites are talking about the morning after a big fight.”
Hornbuckle’s signing comes on the heels of last week’s announcements that Bellator had also signed former U.S. Olympic wrestler Ben Askren and undefeated blue chip prospect Jacob “Tick Tock” McClintock. Like Hornbuckle, both compete at 170 lbs. and will be featured players when the promotion’s new television platform launches in April. Bellator’s highly touted 170 lbs. tournament will be available live every Thursday on FOX Sports Net and every Saturday on NBC and Telemundo.
“With the addition of Hornbuckle to an already steady tournament field that includes Askren and McClintock, we’ve created a great tournament field in a division that many experts said was thin when it came to available talent,” Rebney said. “What we now have is the beginning of a 170 lbs. field that has created a feeling amongst hardcore MMA fans that April can’t come soon enough.”
Each of Bellator’s 24 fights during Seasons 2 and 3 will be distributed live in primetime on Thursday nights on FOX Sports Net and its regional sports network affiliates. The top moments from each week’s live events will then be condensed into an action-packed 30-minute highlight show, broadcast every Saturday night, late night, on NBC. A one-hour highlight show will air in Spanish on Telemundo every Saturday night from midnight to 1 a.m. Each of the three broadcasts will be aired in high definition.