With Battlefield Fight League set to make its debut on UFC FIGHT PASS tonight with BFL 66, here’s a look at the seven athletes to compete under the promotion’s banner that have graduated to the UFC Octagon and some fighters that could follow suit in the not-too-distant future.
The current Top 10 welterweight and former Ultimate Fighter winner only made one appearance under the BFL banner, venturing to Vancouver Island to face Darcy James at BFL 7 in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
“I played a little bit of the heel role that fight — I fought the local guy and did a little taunting to the crowd because I was getting booed a little bit,” recalled Chiesa, who secured a first-round submission win to move to 4-0 in his young career. “It was so cool because the fans in Canada are so great and once the fight was over, they took me in with open arms.
“It was a fun experience and the promoters made it extra special,” continued the Spokane, Washington native, who entered The Ultimate Fighter house less than a year later. “That was the first fight where I got to fight side-by-side with UFC vets — Jesse Taylor was on the card — so that was my first ‘big show’ experience. I felt right at home, I felt comfortable, and it was good.”
Kelowna, British Columbia’s Dwyer competed on each of the first two Battlefield Fight League events and four of the first six shows, wrapping up his amateur career with a third-round submission win. He then turned pro and became one of the top early success stories within the promotion, posting a 7-1 record while winning the welterweight title and defending it three times.
Dwyer signed with the UFC following his second-round stoppage win over TUF finalist DaMarques Johnson at BFL 30, posting a 1-3 record inside the Octagon while earning a pair of post-fight bonuses.
In his second fight after being released by the UFC, Dwyer returned to Battlefield and claimed the middleweight title with a split decision win over Chris Anderson at BFL 53.
The 28-year-old Kennedy followed a comparable path to Dwyer, initially competing under the Battlefield banner as an amateur, claiming the amateur featherweight strap with a second-round submission win at BFL 14. Following one more amateur appearance, “JBC” turned pro, securing a unanimous decision win over Dan Lin at BFL 24 to move to 1-0.
After a handful of fights overseas, Kennedy returned home to the Lower Mainland and the BFL cage, closing out BFL 32 with a second-round submission win before claiming the vacant featherweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Mario Pereira five months later.
He signed with the UFC and debuted at home in Vancouver with a victory over Alex Ricci in August 2016, then added two more wins to push his overall record to 11-0. Kennedy suffered his first professional loss at UFC 221, landing on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict against current featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.
He departed the promotion following that bout and currently holds a 16-2, 1 NC record.
Janes began his career competing on Vancouver Island under the King of the Cage and Armageddon FC banners, posting five wins in his first six starts before venturing to Edmonton to collect a first-round submission win over fellow middleweight upstart David Perron on the second World Series of Fighting Canada card.
The duo would run it back in Janes’ first appearance inside the Battlefield cage with the ZUMA product securing a second-round submission win to capture the middleweight title. He successfully defended his belt with a fourth-round submission win over Brendan Kornberger four months later before signing with the UFC.
Even before stepping into the Octagon for the first time, Janes had an eventful UFC run, as his first bout was scratched the day of the fight and his second attempt to make his debut fell through when the entire event was scuttled. He eventually scored a victory over Keith Berish in December 2016 to earn his first UFC win, and closed out his time on the big stage — and in the sport — with a thrilling, come-from-behind finish of TUF winner Andrew Sanchez.
Janes retired in 2018 following the birth of his first child, finishing his career on a high note with a record of 10-3 overall.
The 31-year-old Smith is another member of this graduating group that logged both pro and amateur bouts under the Battlefield Fight League banner.
Following a 4-3 run as an amateur that included a BFL bantamweight title win and a failed attempt to become a two-weight champ with a move up to lightweight, “The Cole Train” departed for the professional ranks, with the Squamish, British Columbia native claiming the BFL bantamweight title in his second pro fight and successfully defending the belt three times before getting the call to the UFC.
“Boondock” is the most recent fighter with Battlefield Fight League experience on his resume to transition to the Octagon, making the jump on short notice in September 2019 and registering a unanimous decision victory over Michel Pereira.
Currently training in Las Vegas, the welterweight, who also serves as the Head MMA Coach for the Checkmat Vancouver team, had nothing but rave reviews for the local promotion as it readies to debut on UFC FIGHT PASS this evening.
“Having a solid regional scene is super-important and Battlefield is one of the few survivors,” said Connelly, who has cornered countless fighters under the BFL banner in addition to going 2-1 in three appearances himself. “They’ve proven that they have staying power. They’ve been around for years, they’ve had over 60 events and they’re solid; when they say they’re going to do something, they do it.
“They put on a great show, they do a really great job trying to replace fighters when people fall off, so I’m super-excited to see that Battlefield is getting the recognition and being on Fight Pass because that is huge for the fighters as well. Now we have a consistent organization in BC that is going to have international recognition.”
Smith debuted in the Octagon against fellow Canadian Mitch Gagnon, registering a unanimous decision win over the veteran in Ottawa, but then landed on the wrong side of a split decision verdict in his homecoming bout against Miles Johns in September 2019. He returned to the Octagon last year, dropping a decision to Hunter Azure.
Bhullar transitioned to MMA following his international wrestling career, which was highlighted by a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan Am Games, a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and representing Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The Richomond, British Columbia native earned a unanimous decision win in his lone amateur bout at BFL 32 and collected his first professional victory less than three months later with a third-round stoppage over Adam Santos at BFL 33. He claimed the vacant heavyweight title with a second-round stoppage win over Blake Nash at BFL 39, successfully defending the title once and pushing his record to 6-0 before signing with the UFC.
Bhullar made history as the first fighter of South-Asian heritage to compete inside the Octagon, winning his promotional debut against Luis Henrique at UFC 215 in Edmonton. He lost his next outing but rebounded with consecutive victories over Marcelo Golm and Juan Adams to push his record to 9-1 before departing the promotion.
WHO COULD BE NEXT?
ACHILLES ESTREMADURA (6-0): Friday’s headliner Estremadura is the reigning, defending lightweight champion and another competitor who has worked his way through the BFL amateur program, competing alongside Dwyer at BFL 1.
He was initially expected to compete on the Contender Series last summer before plans were scuttled due to COVID-19, but with a quality showing on Friday, the unbeaten standout could move one step closer to realizing his UFC dreams.
JAMEY-LYN HORTH WESSELS (4-0): another representative of The Sound Martial Arts in Squamish, Horth Wessels was expected to make the trek to Las Vegas last year to compete on the Contender Series as well, only to have that opportunity fall through.
The 30-year-old captured the BFL flyweight title with a third-round stoppage win over Jade Mason-Wong in the first of three championship fights at BFL 65 last February. In addition to holding a perfect professional record, Horth Wessels also went 3-0 as an amateur, with two of those victories coming against current LFA strawweight titleholder Lupita “Loopy” Godinez.
CAIO MACHADO (3-1-1): the “Brazilian Big Foot” defends his BFL heavyweight title against Lee Mein in the co-main event of this evening’s fight card and if he can deliver an impressive performance against the ageless Canadian veteran, he could join Bhullar as the second BFL heavyweight titleholder to make the jump to the UFC.
The 31-year-old has logged all five of his professional appearances under the BFL banner, with his lone setback coming in a championship fight against Contender Series alum Dustin Joynson. He enters Friday’s bout with Mein on a two-fight winning streak.
JARED REVEL (11-2): the reigning Battlefield middleweight champion could be the closest of anyone on this list to earning a chance to compete inside the Octagon as Revel has earned six straight victories, including decision wins over UFC veterans Collin Hart and Sergio Moraes in two of his last three fights.
The 36-year-old got a late start on his career but has been one of the most consistent fighters on the BFL roster since turning pro in 2014, registering eight wins in his last nine starts, with 11 of his 13 professional bouts coming inside the Battlefield cage.
DEJAN KAJIC (12-7-2, 1 NC): the 36-year-old has one of the most random records you’ll find for a championship fighter, but since a split decision loss in March 2018 dropped his record to 8-7-2 with one no contest, Kajic has rattled off four straight victories, winning the BFL middleweight title and then claiming the promotion’s 175-pound super welterweight strap at BFL 61.
He successfully defended the title at BFL 63 in September 2019 before his scheduled fight with Julien Leblanc last year at BFL 65 was cancelled due to travel issues. With a successful return to action later this year and a couple more highlight reel wins, Kajin could join the group of Battlefield alums to matriculate to the Octagon at some point in 2021.