The centerpiece of the GLORY 44 CHICAGO numbered card is a four-man Welterweight Contender Tournament featuring three fighters ranked in the top ten of this competitive 170lb division.
In the first of two tournament semifinal bouts, #4-ranked Harut Grigorian (44-11, 32 KO’s) meets #5-ranked veteran Karim "Le Felin" Benmansour (48-7-2, 22 KO’s).
French-born, Thailand-raised Antoine Pinto (132-36-1, 77 KO’s) fighting out of Thailand) puts his No. 7 ranking on the line against America’s Zach Bunnell (7-2, 2 KO’s) in the other semifinal match-up.
Benmansour was the runner-up in the most recent Welterweight Contender Tournament, at GLORY 37, losing out to Yoann Konglo in the final. Kongolo earned a title shot for that win and now Benmansour wants to do the same.
Grigorian was last seen at GLORY 42 PARIS, where he was on the receiving end of the most controversial blow in GLORY history. A competitive bout with Murthel Groenhart was ended in the second round when Groenhart stopped Grigorian with a punch thrown from behind.
The blow was legal, albeit some observers felt it unsporting, and Grigorian’s hopes of earning a title shot with a win ended with the match. But if he can find victory in Chicago then he puts himself right back into title contention.
Chicago holds good memories for Pinto, who debuted here earlier this year with a win over home favorite Richard Abraham, snapping Abraham’s five-fight win streak in the process.
Bunnell comes in on two week’s notice to replace Casey Greene, who has suffered an injury in training. Fighting out of Reno, Nevada, he is a two-sport athlete, 1-0 as a professional in MMA and 6-1 as an amateur.
His main focus is Muay Thai and he is a veteran of the Lion Fight organization, as well as several periods of training and fighting in Thailand itself.
Stepping up on short notice adds an extra layer of challenge, but on the other hand he does not have to contend with jet lag. Bunnell says tough challenges are exactly the reason he competes in martial arts.
GLORY 44 Chicago will be carried live on ESPN3 at 11 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT on Friday, Aug. 25.
Tickets for GLORY 44 Chicago and GLORY 44 SuperFight Series are on sale now, available for online purchase at searscentre.com and at the Sears Centre Arena box office.