After twelve planned bouts failed to materialise, Bellator champ Zoila “The Warrior Princess” Gurgel at last has an opponent for her long-awaited return to action at Bellator Fighting Championships 78 on October 26th in Dayton, Ohio. Gurgel is expected to face Casey “KO” Noland in a flyweight matchup.
MMARising.com confirmed plans for the fight today following an initial report from MMAWeekly.com. Gurgel has not fought since a March 2011 victory over Karina Hallinan due to a torn ACL. She became Bellator’s first women’s champ in October 2010. Noland looks to rebound from a loss at Bellator 51.
Gurgel (11-1-0) suffered through drastic weight cuts in order to make 115 pounds on three consecutive occasions in 2010 and captured the Bellator 115-pound women’s title with victories over Jessica Penne, Jessica “Jag” Aguilar and long-time pound-for-pound queen Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii. She returned to her more natural weight class of 125 pounds for a rematch with Hallinan 19 months ago and emerged victorious via Unanimous Decision. Gurgel had been scheduled to face Brazilian star Carina “Beauty But The Beast” Damm at Bellator 57, but sustained a torn ACL during training and has been forced to watch from the sidelines since then.
During her extended absence, Gurgel has trained alongside husband and UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel in Ohio in order to continue to develop her ground game. Gurgel’s younger sister, Stephanie, has shown tremendous improvement in her skills in two recent victories as an atomweight and Gurgel hopes to do the same when she returns to the Bellator cage.
Noland (4-2-0) steps into the bout with Gurgel on two weeks’ notice after a dozen opponents passed on the fight. She opened her career with wins in four of her first five fights and holds notable victories over Colleen Schneider and Nina Ansaroff. In September 2011, Noland made her Bellator debut against fast-rising star Jessica “Evil” Eye and dropped a Split Decision to the Ohio native. Like Gurgel, Noland will also be returning from a lengthy layoff leading into the October 26th bout, but she put on a solid showing against Eye and an upset victory over Gurgel would vault Noland up the flyweight rankings.
Bellator officials remain hopeful that they can stage a female flyweight tournament in 2013. Should the tournament proceed as planned, the winner of the bout between Gurgel and Noland will likely find herself in the quarterfinal round next year.
Bellator Fighting Championships 78 takes place on October 26th at Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.