After defeating ‘one of the best ever’ at Bellator 246, Neiman Gracie eyes end-of-year title shot

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – As far as Neiman Gracie is concerned, he just beat the No. 1 welterweight contender at Bellator 246.

Gracie (10-1 MMA, 8-1 BMMA) defeated seasoned veteran Jon Fitch via second-round heel-hook submission in the co-main event at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night, and heaped praise on his opponent after their matchup.

“I think this is one of the biggest wins of my career,” Gracie told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage after his win. “Jon Fitch is one of the best welterweights of all time, if you like it or not, he is. He beat every welterweight you can imagine – he only lost to champions, so he’s a really tough guy.

“The first submission that I had on him, his knee popped, he screamed and he didn’t tap out. (The) second submission was very close, and he defended well. So it was a great fight, I’m really happy. It’s been a year (since my last fight), so it took me a little while to get into fight mode. But I’m very happy.”

Fitch (32-8-2 MMA, 1-1-1 BMMA) laid down his gloves inside the Bellator cage after the fight as he announced his retirement after 40 professional bouts, and Gracie paid tribute to the American, who has operated at the top level of the welterweight division for more than a decade.

“How can you not respect a guy like Jon Fitch?” Gracie asked. “How many fights has he had? 40? Almost 50. So the guy is one of the best ever, man. I’m a huge fan and I asked him to come to New York to train with us and teach me a couple of things because I have a lot to learn from him.”

As well as stating his immense respect for Fitch, Gracie also said that he thought the American was the division’s top contender heading into their matchup. Now, after his submission victory over him, Gracie says that he just installed himself as the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds, and would love to take on champion Douglas Lima before the end of the year, after the Brazilian has completed his tilt at the vacant middleweight title at Bellator 250 on Oct. 29.

“My opinion, (Fitch) was the number one contender. He had a draw against the other champion (Rory MacDonald), which he should have won. So it puts me in the No. 1 spot, for sure,” said Gracie. “If the belt is not the next fight, then I’ll fight anyone there is at the top.

“I can’t wait for my next fight. I want to fight again soon. I want to fight this year, so everybody at Bellator, please get me the next fight soon. Lima’s fighting next month, so maybe we can do it in December if he comes back down to welterweight.”

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