LEWISTON, Maine — Dave Jansen has waited more than three months for his chance to win the Bellator MMA lightweight tournament final.
The bout, set for Thursday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee as one of four Bellator 93 fights to be televised nationally on Spike TV, originally was scheduled for Dec. 14 at Hammond, Ind., but was called off when Jansen’s opponent, 20-year-old Polish phenom Marcin Held, was found to be too young to enter the casino that hosted the Bellator 84 card.
“I already was in the locker room starting my warmups,” said Jansen, who lives in Corbett, Ore. “And what’s kind of funny is that he got into the casino the day before for the weigh-ins.
“But different states have different rules, and in Indiana they don’t let any anyone under 21 into a casino. Bellator said it went through all the steps to make sure he could fight, but it didn’t happen.”
The bout subsequently was rescheduled to March 7 as part of Bellator 92 but was pushed back two more weeks due to an injury suffered by Held.
The Jansen-Held fight headlines a 10-fight card as Bellator — the second-largest MMA promotion in the United States behind the Ultimate Fighting Championships, or UFC — makes its initial foray into Maine.
The preliminary card will begin at 7:30 p.m. and be available via free live streaming on Spike.com. The four main-card events — including a welterweight bout featuring Bangor’s Marcus Davis — will be televised nationally starting at 10 p.m.
Weigh-ins for the fights were scheduled for late Wednesday afternoon.
One of the original main-card bouts, a clash between heavyweights Eric Prindle and Brett Rogers, has been scratched due to an injury, leaving open the possibility that a welterweight fight between “The” Ryan Sanders (4-3) of Brewer and British kickboxing specialist Michael “Venom” Page (3-0) will be elevated to main-card status and added to the televised portion of the event.
Ernie Fitch, one of Sanders’ trainers at the Bangor-based Young’s MMA, said Wednesday that a decision on which prelim bout will be added to the main card would be determined during a production meeting Thursday morning.
The stakes also are high for the main event, with the Jansen-Held winner earning the final portion of a $100,000 tournament payday.
That total is based on the winner’s three-fight tournament performance. Participants received $7,000 for competing in the quarterfinals and another $7,000 for winning that fight, then $15,000 for competing in the semifinals and another $15,000 for winning that bout, meaning that Jansen and Held already have won $44,000.
Jansen and Held each will receive $20,000 for competing in Thursday night’s final, with the winner earning an additional $36,000 for total prize money of $100,000 for the tournament champion.
The winner of the Jansen-Held bout also will earn a title shot against reigning Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler.
The 33-year-old Jansen brings an 18-2 record into the fight, including five straight victories — three by submission — since a two-loss losing streak resulted in his release from the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion.
Jansen, a former Oregon state wrestling champion who earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon, credits his recent surge to his improved striking game.
“Growing up wrestling means you don’t have to focus so much on it,” said Jansen, who advanced to the Bellator final with a split-decision semifinal victory over Ricardo Tirloni on Nov. 16, “so I’ve been spending a lot of time on boxing and striking because I had been struggling with it.
“At this stage, you’ve got to be well-rounded, and I think my confidence in my striking has been the difference.”
Jansen is expected to use his wrestling background to try to keep Thursday night’s fight off the mat, since Held — who turned 21 on Jan. 18 — is known as a leg-lock submission specialist.
Held (15-2) joined Bellator in 2011 and lost to Chandler in his first fight with the promotion. But, like Jansen, he has won his last five fights, including a second-round submission of Rich Clementi in the lightweight tournament semifinals on Nov. 16.
“He’s exceptional at what he does, which is leg-locking people,” Jansen said. “He’s a pretty big deal in Poland and now he’s trying to be a big deal in the U.S.
“I have nothing but respect for Marcin, but he’s standing in my way.”