Jesse Delgado at the 2013 NCAA semifinals (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
In some way, the MMA weekend for former wrestlers got off to an early start this week. On Tuesday, Canadian nationals placer Jasmine Jasudavicius and three-time NCAA Division II All-American Mo Miller competed on an episode of Dana White's Contenders Series. Both competitors won their bouts, but only Jasudavicius was offered a contract. Despite not getting a shot, the former Notre Dame College wrestler will likely find his way to the big show soon as he has outclassed his competition since making his professional debut in 2019.
Bellator MMA returns to action on Saturday, and the Bellator 266 is full of former wrestlers as always. In fact, the main event features six-time World/Olympic medalist Yoel Romero taking on NCAA champion Phil Davis. Romero will be fighting for the first time since leaving the UFC last year. Davis last competed in the Bellator light heavyweight tournament and dropped a decision against current champion Vadim Nemkov.
Alex Polizzi was a three-time NCAA qualifier for Northwestern who finished his eligibility in 2015. Earlier this year, he improved his professional record to 8-1 with a first-round armbar victory over Gustavo Trujillo. Back in 2020, Polizzi put himself on the map with an upset over former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. He takes on Grant Neal, who was a two-time Colorado state champion before heading to CSU Pueblo for football.
While many former wrestlers get plenty of attention and fanfare for their MMA debuts, that does not appear to be the case for Jesse Delgado. The two-time NCAA champion is set to make his professional MMA debut in the very first fight of the night. The former Illinois wrestler will take on Joshua Dillon, who currently holds a 1-1 record. Delgado had a legendary junior season at Illinois where he defeated the likes of Cory Clark, Joey Dance, Nahshon Garrett and Nico Megaludis and won the NCAA title.
The main card of Bellator 266 will air live on Showtime. The preliminary card, which will feature Delgado and Polizzi, begins at 7:00pm ET on YouTube.
The UFC show this week is a little lighter on wrestlers than normal. However, there is still some representation on the card. Tony Gravely was a two-time NCAA qualifier and a SoCon champion for Appalachian State. He will take on Nate Maness on the undercard of UFC Anthony Smith vs. Ryan Spann. The undercard will air live on ESPN+ at 4:00pm ET.