Bellator MMA Reveals Which Fighters From Recent Tryouts To Compete At Bellator 235 & Bellator 236


Bellator MMA officials recently held fighter tryouts last month in Honolulu, Hawaii and ten of those who tried out will get to fight at Bellator 235 or Bellator 236. Those who will get a shot are Braydon Akeo, Cheyden Leialoha, Pierre Daguzan, Jamie Thorton, Hunter Ewald, Keoni Diggs, Scotty Hao, Swayne Lunasco, Kaylan Gorospe and Ben Wilhelm.

The following press release has been issued by Bellator MMA: 

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LOS ANGELES – Ahead of Bellator’s return to Hawaii on December 20 and 21 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, the world’s leading global mixed martial arts promotion held open tryouts in Honolulu in an effort to further Bellator’s continued commitment to the local MMA scene in Hawaii.

After an overwhelming turnout, 10 athletes from the tryout have been selected to compete inside the Bellator cage next month – and if victorious, will have a chance to earn an exclusive multi-fight Bellator contract. The fighters selected include Braydon Akeo (3-0), Cheyden Leialoha (7-1), Pierre Daguzan (5-3, 1 NC), Jamie Thorton (6-5), Hunter Ewald (pro debut), Keoni Diggs (7-0), Scotty Hao (4-2), Swayne Lunasco (7-0), Kaylan Gorospe (pro debut) and Ben Wilhelm (3-0).

At Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops on Friday, Dec. 20, Maili, Hawaii’s Braydon Akeo (3-0) earns a spot on the main card at 145-pounds against Tywan Claxton (5-1), who will make his first appearance since competing in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix. This bout joins the previously announced heavyweight main event between Josh Barnett (35-8) and Ronny Markes (19-7), a bantamweight scrap featuring newly signed Erik Perez (19-6) against Hawaii’s Toby Misech (11-7) and a flyweight contest pitting former title challengers against each other, as Alejandra Lara (8-3) squares off against Veta Artega (5-3).

On Friday’s prelims, Kauai’s Hunter Ewald, who was also selected from the tryouts, will make his professional debut against fellow Hawaiian Jonathan Pico (1-1) at 170-pounds. Also, recently signed to an exclusive deal of his own, Northern California’s Cass Bell (4-0) will face Max Holloway’s training partner Pierre Daguzan (5-3) at bantamweight and 82nd Airborne Army Veteran Jamie Thorton (6-5) takes on Tiani Valle (3-2) of Maui at flyweight.

Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops will air on Paramount Network on Friday, December 20 at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. The entire event will also stream on DAZN, while preliminary bouts will stream on, DAZN and globally on the Bellator Mobile App.

Saturday, Dec. 21’s Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson will feature another tryout participant deserving of a main card bout, as Cheyden Leialoha (7-1) meets another top prospect in Nebraska’s Raufeon Stots (12-1) at bantamweight. This fight joins a card topped by undefeated Bellator women’s flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) defending her title against Kate Jackson (11-3-1), A.J. McKee (15-0) taking on Derek Campos (20-9) in a quarterfinal matchup of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, Neiman Gracie (9-1) returning to action for the first time since his welterweight title shot in a welterweight bout against Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC) and women’s flyweight title hopefuls Julianna Velasquez (9-0) and Bruna Ellen (5-2) going to battle.

On the Bellator 236 preliminary card, undefeated tryout prospect Ben Wilhelm (3-0) will take on two-time Bellator veteran Kona Oliveira (1-2) in a welterweight contest, while Wahiawa-born Keoni Diggs (7-0) and Hilo’s Scotty Hao (4-2) were also selected and will fight each other at 155 pounds. Lastly, Hawaii’s Swayne Lunasco, who went 7-0 as an amateur, and Kaylan Gorospe, who were both selected from the tryouts, will make their pro debuts against each other at bantamweight.

Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson – one of the star-powered, year-end highlights of fight season on DAZN – will stream Saturday, December 21 live exclusively on DAZN at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, while preliminary action will stream on, DAZN and globally on the Bellator Mobile App.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through, as well as or the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena box office.

Updated Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops Main Card:

Paramount Network & DAZN

10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/5 p.m. HST

Heavyweight Main Event: Josh Barnett (35-8) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7)

Bantamweight Main Card Bout: Toby Misech (11-7) vs. Erik Perez (19-6)

Flyweight Main Card Bout: Alejandra Lara (8-3) vs. Veta Artega (5-3)

Featherweight Main Card Bout: Tywan Claxton (5-1) vs. Braydon Akeo (3-0)

Updated Preliminary Card:

DAZN, & the Bellator Mobile App

8:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. CT/3:45 p.m. HST

Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: Cass Bell (4-0) vs. Pierre Daguzan (5-3, 1 NC)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Hunter Ewald (Pro Debut) vs. Jonathan Pico (1-1)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Tiani Valle (3-2) vs. Jamie Thorton (6-5)

Updated Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson Main Card:


10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/5 p.m. HST

Flyweight World Title Bout: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) vs. Kate Jackson (11-3-1)

Featherweight World Grand Prix Quarterfinal Bout: A.J. McKee (15-0) vs. Derek Campos (20-9) 

Welterweight Main Card Bout: Neiman Gracie (9-1) vs. Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC)

Flyweight Main Card Bout: Julianna Velasquez (9-0) vs. Bruna Ellen (5-2)

Bantamweight Main Card Bout: Raufeon Stots (12-1) vs. Cheyden Leialoha (7-1)

Updated Preliminary Card:

DAZN, & the Bellator Mobile App

8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. HST

Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: Swayne Lunasco (Pro Debut) vs. Kaylan Gorospe (Pro Debut)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Keoni Diggs (7-0) vs. Scotty Hao (4-2)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Nate Yoshimura (Pro Debut) vs. Chas Dunhour (0-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Kai Kamaka III (5-2) vs. Spencer Higa (7-10)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Kona Oliveira (1-2) vs. Ben Wilhelm (3-0)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Dustin Barca (3-0) vs. Brandon Pieper (11-13)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Nainoa Dung (3-0) vs. Zach Zane (13-9)

*Cards subject to change.

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About Bellator: 

Bellator is a leading global mixed martial arts and kickboxing promotion featuring many of the best athletes in the world. Under the direction of veteran fight promoter Scott Coker, Bellator events take place in major cities worldwide and can be seen on television in over 160 countries to an available audience of over one billion people. In the United States, Bellator can be seen on both Paramount Network and DAZN, the world’s first truly dedicated LIVE sports streaming service. Bellator is comprised of an executive team that includes top industry professionals in television production, live event orchestration, fighter development/relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations. Bellator is based in Hollywood, Calif. and owned by entertainment giant Viacom, home to the world's premier entertainment brands that connect with audiences through compelling content across television, motion picture, online and mobile platforms.

About Paramount Network: 

Paramount Network is a premium entertainment destination that pushes the limits of story-telling with bold original scripted and non-scripted series. Inspired by over a century of cinema, Paramount Network is where today’s brightest stars bring the experience of the big screen to every screen with stories that are immersive, inclusive, and deeply personal.

About DAZN:

DAZN is the largest global sports streaming platform in the world. Since launching in 2016, DAZN has expanded across four continents with the app currently available for download in the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Japan and Brazil. In the U.S., DAZN has made its mark as an attractive alternative to pay-per-view within the combat sports industry. The platform features big fights from Matchroom Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions, GGG Promotions, Bellator MMA, the World Boxing Super Series and Combate Americas, all for one affordable price, on any device - including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, games consoles and PCs. DAZN also features live MLB action each day of the season with its new daily show, ChangeUp. The much-anticipated daily program The Pat McAfee Show launched in September.

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