New York, NY (June 9, 2011) – After suffering a training injury to his left arm and wrist, #1 heavyweight prospect and reigning M-1 Global champion, Guram Gugenishvili has been forced to withdraw from his title defense at M-1 Challenge XXVI Friday July 8th; Gugenishvili is expected to defend his title and make his Stateside debut later this year. Stepping into the bout with Pat Bennett (4-2) is Kenny ‘Deuce’ Garner (6-3), a rematch from last year’s M-1 Selection Americas tournament finals.
“As unfortunate as late training injuries are, they’re part of the sport. No one is more disappointed about the change in circumstances than Guram himself; as the Champion and a patriot to his country, he had been doing everything possible to prepare for a successful title defense. He was absolutely gutted when breaking the news to us,” said M-1 Global Director of Operations, Evgeni Kogan. “We hope Guram makes a swift recovery so he can return to action as soon as possible.”
Stepping in to fill the space is Kenny ‘Deuce’ Garner, the 2010 M-1 Selection Americas tournament heavyweight winner who out-struck Bennett in the finals on route to securing a shot at Europe’s leading mixed martial arts promotion’s inaugural championship belt. Facing Guram this past October, Garner was choked unconscious early in the second round after winning an extremely close opening frame.
Garner is best known for his relentless self-marketing which he backs up with one-punch power as evidenced by his four KO/TKO wins; hidden behind the heavy leather is also a potent submission arsenal and solid wrestling base which makes this rematch tilt a potentially explosive outing for both men. “I’ll fight anyone, anytime for M-1 Global,” said Garner during a phone interview. “I’ve got to do better than what I’ve done before and this is my opportunity to chase down my belt! I’ve been training ever since my loss to Guram and I’m not losing to Pat Bennett; he’s not making it out of the first round.”
Known for his wrestling skills, Bennett has proven to be a multidimensional mixed martial artist able to transition into a touted striker at will; doubters are quickly silenced by his combined amateur and professional record which is heavily weighted in the ‘win’ column with five first-round TKO’s. Capable of managing larger opponents thanks to his versatile background and heavy-handed striking, this New Jersey native is primed to secure redemption against Garner. An optimistic Bennett spoke with energy; “Obviously Guram’s injury is disappointing but I have to look at the bright side; I get to avenge my loss to Kenny and it’s a fight I’ve wanted badly. Now that I’m fighting Garner, he’s the only one on my mind! My camp and I will deal with rescheduling the title fight with Guram later; on July 8th, I’ve got a point to prove.”
With M-1 Challenge champions established in all five weight classes, a true contenders system will fuel events throughout 2011, driving M-1 Global’s growth as a leading brand in the US and international markets.
2011’s full slate of M-1 Challenge events held in the United States and Europe are primed to be mega-event spectaculars where Champions defend their titles and contenders jockey for position for a coveted shot at the gold. Feeding the contention system will be two Selection tournaments held throughout Europe and North America in 2011.