Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas, whose controversial loss to former U.S. Olympian Ben Askren generated substantial comment in the MMA world following Bellator 14 in Chicago last week, has been announced as a last-minute replacement for “Judo” Jim Wallhead at Bellator 15 in Connecticut this Thursday.
Wallhead (18-5), who was anticipating making his U.S. debut with Bellator, is unable to travel from his native England due to the volcanic ash cloud that has halted air travel across Europe over the last several days.
Instead, Thomas (12-4) will get the call versus Arizona Combat Sports product Jacob “Tick Tock” McClintock (6-0), who has won each of his first six pro fights via first round stoppage.
The fight is one of four Bellator fights from this Thursday night’s event at The Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., that will be televised LIVE on FOX Sports Net and in special highlight shows this Saturday night on NBC, Telemundo and mun2.
“While I am very disappointed that Jim won’t be able to make it to the U.S. this week, at least some good comes out of this situation as Ryan will get the opportunity to step back into our welterweight tournament,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “After the fight last Thursday, I promised Ryan that he would be our first alternate for the tournament and, based on a natural disaster, his opportunity came much sooner than anyone would have guessed. Ryan and Ben Askren were locked in a tough fight last week that was ended, somewhat controversially, by the referee. While I respect that decision, I am pleased that this opportunity has presented itself for Ryan.”
Thomas, a veteran of the UFC, fell to Askren via technical submission just 2:40 into Round 1 at last Thursday’s event.
Controversy erupted almost immediately after the stoppage, though, as Thomas, his corner and a vocal fan contingent in the theatre’s balcony protested that he gave no indication that he wanted the fight to be stopped.
“It’s a bad call by the referee,” Thomas said afterwards. “It’s just a shame that the fans got cheated and Ben got cheated out of some more cage time. I was fine – it wasn’t like the world was closing in on me. I was totally fine.”