Corey Anderson wins vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship as PFL era launches

Corey Anderson wins vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship as PFL era launches
Corey Anderson won the vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight World Championship in after beating Karl Moore in Belfast. (PFL)
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Updated 23 March 2024
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Corey Anderson wins vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship as PFL era launches

Corey Anderson wins vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship as PFL era launches
  • Patricio Pitbull retains Bellator Featherweight title in co-main event in Belfast

BELFAST: A new era of MMA kicked off in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Friday night with the Bellator Champions Series, a card that saw a new champion crowned, and the most decorated champion in promotional history retain his title.
It was the first event in the series since the Professional Fighter’s League (PFL) acquired Bellator last year.
In the main event, Corey Anderson (18-6) took home the vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight World Championship in front of a supportive hometown crowd for Belfast’s Karl Moore (12-3), utilizing his superior wrestling and top control to earn a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45).
With the win, “Overtime” became the eighth 205-pound champion in Bellator history. After the bout, Anderson set his sights on improving, saying: “Overtime isn’t satisfied, we have more work to do, and more names to beat.” 
The greatest Bellator athlete of all-time, Patricio Pitbull (36-7), emphatically finished Jeremy Kennedy (19-4) with strikes at 4:07 in the third round of their Featherweight World Championship bout, earning his 24th win under the Bellator banner, a promotional record.




Corey Anderson won the vacant Bellator Light Heavyweight World Championship in after beating Karl Moore in Belfast. (PFL)

Following the bout, Pitbull said: “I’m not done yet, Aaron Pico, you’re next,” potentially setting the stage for a bout between the strikers in the future.
Bellator Middleweight Champion Johnny Eblen has a new No. 1 contender following a unanimous decision (29-28 x3) victory for Fabian Edwards (13-3) over Aaron Jeffery (14-5). After the bout the 30-year-old Birmingham, England, native had two words for the current 185-pound champion: “I’m coming,” setting up the rematch for some time later this year.
In a grudge match nearly two years in the making, Leandro Higo (23-6) took home a unanimous decision victory (29-28 x3) over James Gallagher (12-3) after a back-and-forth brawl.
Both fighters found success on the feet, with Higo scoring multiple spinning back fists and Gallagher’s jab breaking through Higo’s guard. Ultimately, Higo’s relentless wrestling and ground and pound separated him enough in the deciding final round to get the nod from the judges.
Kicking off the action for the main card, the undefeated Manoel Sousa (11-0) clashed with the always-exciting Tim Wilde (17-5-1) in a lightweight bout. Originally struggling to find his range early due to Wilde’s fluid footwork, Brazil’s Sousa eventually found his target at 4:48 in the first round, resulting in a highlight reel knockout finish, the seventh of his career.
Next up for Bellator Champions Series, is May 17 at the Accor Arena in Paris, where in the main event, Usman Nurmagomedov (17-0, 1 NC), will attempt to remain undefeated and retain his lightweight title when he locks horns with Alexander Shabliy (23-3), a man who has not been beaten in eight years.
The co-headliner features Bellator Bantamweight Champion Patchy Mix (19-1) returning to action against Magomed Magomedov (16-1). Mix and Magomedov renew a rivalry that began in 2022 at the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix Semifinals, a tournament Mix went on to win.
In addition, the main event for Bellator Champions Series Dublin on Saturday, June 22, was announced and will be headlined by Welterweight World Champion Jason Jackson (18-4) facing undefeated Ramazan Kuramagomedov (12-0) at the 3Arena in Dublin.
 

The complete 2024 Bellator Champions Series schedule is as follows:

- Friday, May 17: Bellator Champions Series Paris, Accor Arena

- Saturday, June 22: Bellator Champions Series Dublin, 3Arena

- Saturday, Sept. 7: Bellator Champions Series San Diego, Pechanga Arena

- Saturday, Sept. 14: Bellator Champions Series London, OVO Wembley

- Saturday, Oct. 12: Bellator Champions Series Chicago, Wintrust Arena

- Saturday, Nov. 16: Bellator Champions Series Paris, ADIDAS Arena

- Tuesday, Dec. 31 – Bellator Champions Series, TBD


De la Fuente calls on Spain players to make history in Euros final

De la Fuente calls on Spain players to make history in Euros final
Updated 41 sec ago
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De la Fuente calls on Spain players to make history in Euros final

De la Fuente calls on Spain players to make history in Euros final
  • “It’s a brilliant generation, many of them have come through successful youth levels and that usually bodes well for success,” De la Fuente told reporters Saturday

BERLIN: Spain coach Luis de la Fuente called on a “brilliant” generation of players to make history for their country in the Euro 2024 final against England on Sunday.
La Roja are aiming to win a record fourth European Championship 12 years after they last lifted the trophy.
With Rodri Hernandez pulling the strings in midfield and explosive young wingers Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams in attack, Spain have been the tournament’s great entertainers on the road to Berlin.
“It’s a brilliant generation, many of them have come through successful youth levels and that usually bodes well for success,” De la Fuente told reporters Saturday.
“We want to start to make history — and we have made history already in the run to (the final)... I trust in a great future, there’s both present and future.”
Spain won the 2008 and 2012 Euros and the 2010 World Cup with many star players from Barcelona and Real Madrid, including Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Ramos and David Villa.
The current side has fewer stars but consider that one of their strong points, with the squad on an even footing and “unity” has been a key word among Spain players at the tournament.
Despite Spain shining en route to the final while England have scraped through, De la Fuente said the clash at the Olympiastadion will be “extremely balanced.”
“Whichever team manages to impose their strengths, whoever makes less errors (will win),” said the coach.
“But you can win a one-off game, even playing far worse (than your opponent).
“We need to have maximum concentration, not make any mistakes and take advantage of the chances we have — put them away.”
The coach thanked injured duo Pedri and Ayoze Perez, who will not be available to face England, and said Barcelona midfielder Gavi will travel to join the team for the final.
The 19-year-old missed most of the season with a knee injury but was an important player for Spain before sustaining it in November.
De la Fuente said it was no challenge to keep Barcelona’s Yamal, who turned 17 on Saturday, and Athletic Bilbao’s Williams, 22, calm ahead of the biggest game of their careers.
“It’s not at all hard, they have such joy, and incredible maturity for such young players, they understand the sport very well and they are well accompanied by more experienced players,” explained the coach.
“We’re a team, it’s not about hailing individuals, and this makes us stronger.”
At the other end of the age spectrum is 38-year-old Sevilla defender Jesus Navas, who started the semifinal win over France in direct confrontation with Kylian Mbappe.
Navas won the 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euros and the 2023 Nations League with Spain and said he would love to lift another trophy with his country.
“To still be enjoying myself with my national team at 38 is incredible,” said the right-back.
“In (Spain’s golden years) we were such a close-knit group, and you could feel it. Now it’s the same, there’s an incredible group. I’m delighted by everything that’s happening to us.
“We know the excitement and hope that we all have and I hope we can win it.”


‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world

‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world
Updated 13 July 2024
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‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world

‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world
  • “I’m not a believer in fairy tales,” England coach Gareth Southgate said on Saturday, “but I’m a believer in dreams”
  • Southgate has played a central role in England’s painful journey of agonizing exits, near-misses and national angst down the years

BERLIN: For the English, it’s largely self-deprecating banter.
For pretty much everybody else, it’s a sign of arrogance and entitlement.
“Football’s Coming Home” — the England team soccer anthem — have been sung on the streets of cities throughout Germany over the past month, and will be roared with even more gusto in Berlin in the next 24 hours.
England are in the European Championship final against Spain on Sunday, a chance for the underachieving birthplace of soccer to capture a major men’s title for the first time since the 1966 World Cup on home soil.
A chance, it is being said by England, for football to come home.
“I’m not a believer in fairy tales,” England coach Gareth Southgate said on Saturday, “but I’m a believer in dreams.”
Southgate has played a central role in England’s painful journey of agonizing exits, near-misses and national angst down the years.
It was Southgate, England’s coach since 2016, who led the team to a first major final since 1966 only to lose to Italy in a penalty shootout in the 2021 Euro final.
Twenty-five years earlier, it was Southgate — then a defender of modest ability — who missed what proved to be a decisive penalty in England’s shootout defeat to Germany in the Euro 1996 semifinals.
The “Football’s Coming Home” anthem is born from the “Three Lions” song that was released before Euro 1996.
One of its lines spoke of “30 years of hurt.” It is now 58 years of hurt, and the fans are still singing it.
“It has been going on for years and years,” said England fan Justin Tucknott, a 54-year-old business analyst who was grabbing a drink at a bar near Olympiastadion in a sun-kissed evening in the German capital.
“We’re going to keep singing it until it does come home. And when it does, the words will be changed slightly.”
England’s chances of ending that men’s title drought approaching nearly 60 years have improved under Southgate, with the team reaching back-to-back Euro finals and getting to the World Cup semifinals in 2018.
He has had to change the mentality and culture in a squad that are regularly full of some of the top players in the English Premier League, the most popular and watched domestic league in the world.
Famous and rich, the players maybe thought they had a divine right to win titles at international level as often as they do at club level.
Southgate quickly drummed it into them that they don’t.
“We have tried to change the mindset from the start, tried to be more honest about where we were as a football nation,” Southgate said. “I traveled to World Cups and European Championships as an observer and watched highlights reels of matches that were on the big screens — and we weren’t in any of them.
“They only showed the finals and big games. We needed to change that. We had high expectations but they didn’t match where we were, performance-wise. … We’ve come through a lot of big nights now, a lot of records have been broken, but we know we have to get this trophy to really feel the respect of the rest of the football world.”
England started slowly — very slowly — at Euro 2024, relying on big moments from big players to get them through to the semifinals. There, the team produced their best performance so far, but still needed a goal exactly on 90 minutes from Ollie Watkins to get past the Netherlands.
“It builds resilience and belief,” England captain Harry Kane said.
It’s an increasingly confident England heading into the final. And much of that comes from the coach.
“Tomorrow, I don’t have any fear what might happen,” Southgate said, “because I have been through everything. I want the players to feel that fearlessness.
“If we are not afraid to lose, it gives us a better chance of winning.”


Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
Updated 13 July 2024
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Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
  • Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan wins for second time in row
  • Zedan participated in the US Polo Assn team, which was led by Prince William

LONDON: The US Polo Assn team, led by the Prince of Wales, Prince William, and with the participation of the Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan, have won the Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024.
It was Zedan’s second triumph in a row in the competition, which was held at the Guards Polo Club fields in Windsor, London, with the Japanese company Out-Sourcing Inc sponsoring the tournament.
The US Polo Assn team were crowned after drawing with the Malaysian team BP 4-4 and surpassing them on goal difference in the championship rounds.
Alongside Prince William and Zedan in the attack were Ayawat Srivaddhanaprabha, the CEO of King Power, representing Thailand, and Mark Tomlinson, representing the UK. Khaled Al-Ajmi, a board member of the SPF, and Faisal bin Dwaid, the federation’s CEO, were also present.
Zedan’s participation helped in furthering the SPF’s role in local and international social responsibility, while helping it toward its goals through participation and support in social events.
British media reports said that Prince William had taken part in the polo match to help raise more than $1.5 million for his charities. According to the UK’s royal family website, the funds raised by the match will be distributed across 11 charities and causes supported by Prince William and the Princess of Wales.


Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
Updated 13 July 2024
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Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
  • Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise
  • “It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova

LONDON: Barbora Krejcikova kept insisting that nobody — not her friends, not her family, not even herself — would believe she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise. This one, which came via a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Jasmine Paolini in the final at the All England Club on Saturday, was maybe just as unpredictable, sure, but perhaps now it’s time to recognize that these sorts of results from Krejcikova are not only possible but make perfect sense.
“It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, who thanked her late mentor, 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, for pushing her into professional tennis.
Even while holding her gold champion’s plate, Krejcikova described herself as “the lucky one” for getting past the seventh-seeded Paolini, who also was the runner-up at the French Open last month.
Krejcikova was only the 31st of 32 seeds at the All England Club after illness and a back injury this season limited her to a 7-9 record entering this tournament. Then came a three-setter in the first round last week, adding to the doubts.
But by the end of the fortnight, there Paolini was during the trophy ceremony, telling Krejcikova: “You play such beautiful tennis.”
Krejcikova is the eighth woman to leave Wimbledon as the champion in the past eight editions of the event. Last year’s champion also is from the Czech Republic: unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who lost in the first round last week.
Paolini is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to get to the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season — and the first since Venus Williams in 2002 to lose both.
Saturday’s finalists took turns being in charge.
Playing coolly and efficiently — seemingly effortlessly — Krejcikova claimed 10 of the first 11 points and quickly owned a double-break lead at 5-1.
As much as the crowd, likely because of a desire to see a more competitive contest, pulled loudly for Paolini, yelling “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”) the way she often does, or “Calma!” (“Be calm!”), Krejcikova never wavered.
She has net skills, to be sure — that’s part of why she has won seven Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon — but Krejcikova mainly was content to stay back at the baseline, simply delivering one smooth groundstroke after another to its appointed spot and getting the better of the lengthiest exchanges.
There really was no need for anything other than Plan A in the early going in front of a Center Court crowd that included actors Tom Cruise, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman.
Paolini did try to shake things up a bit, with the occasional serve-and-volley rush forward or drop shot, but she couldn’t solve Krejcikova. Not yet, anyway.
After the lopsided first set, Paolini went to the locker room. She emerged a different player, one who no longer looked like someone burdened by residual fatigue from the longest women’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, her 2-hour, 51-minute win over Donna Vekic on Thursday.
Paolini had come back from dropping the first set in that one, so she knew she had it in her. And she began the second set against Krejcikova in style, using deep groundstrokes to grab a 3-0 advantage.
Once the match was tied at a set apiece, it was Krejcikova who left the court to try to recalibrate.
Her shots that suddenly went so awry in the match’s middle — after just four winners in the second set, she accumulated 14 in the third — were back to being crisp and clean.
“I was just telling myself to be brave,” Krejcikova said.
At 3-all in the deciding set, it was Paolini who faltered, double-faulting for the only time all afternoon to get broken.
Krejcikova then held at love for 5-3, but when she served for the championship, things got a little tougher.
She needed to save a pair of break points and required three match points to get across the finish line, winning when Paolini missed a backhand.
“Nobody believes that I got to the final. And I think nobody’s going to believe that I won Wimbledon,” Krejcikova said several minutes later. “I still cannot believe it. It’s unbelievable.”


Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
Updated 13 July 2024
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Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
  • Frenchman will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema

PARIS: Former France manager Laurent Blanc has been hired as coach of Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Arabian club announced on Saturday.
Blanc, who had been out of work since being fired by Lyon last September, will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema.
After the team finished fifth in the Saudi league last season, the 36-year-old striker, the club’s star recruit, reportedly campaigned for a French-speaking coach.
This prompted the resignation of club president Louay Nazer, who had reportedly reached an agreement with Italian Stefano Pioli, who had left AC Milan.
The Al-Ittihad squad also includes N’Golo Kante, a starter in the France team that reached the last four at the current Euros, and former Monaco and Liverpool Brazilian Fabinho.
The 58-year-old Blanc was at the heart of the France defense as they won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
In his second season as a manager he led Bordeaux to a League 1 title. He coached France from 2010-12.
He guided Qatari-own Paris Saint-Germain to three Ligue 1 titles and five domestic cups between 2013 and 2016, had a stint in Qatar with Al-Rayyan from December 2020 to February 2022 and a painful 11 months from October 2022 when he was unable to reverse Lyon’s decline.
Al-Ittihad have not specified the length of Blanc’s contract.
He will be the club’s third coach in a year following Nuno Espirito Santo, who led the club to a ninth Saudi title in 2023, and Marcelo Gallardo.
Last season the club finished only fifth in the table, 42 points behind runaway champions Al-Hilal. They failed to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
Argentine Gallardo, who dropped the misfiring Benzema for a time, was fired in July after less than seven months in the job.