The UFC continues to impose its dominance on the MMA world, but some smaller promotions continue to find ways to put together interesting events, and September is a prime example of that. Strikeforce and Bellator fighters will both be action, while some regional organizations will also step into the spotlight throughout the month.
In a few weeks, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his title against Vitor Belfort, while Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson will go to battle in the first ever UFC flyweight title fight. Outside of the Octagon, there certainly won't be any bouts as meaningful as those, but there are still plenty of tussles worth watching.
These are the biggest non-UFC events throughout the month of September.
When: Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Belem, Brazil
How to Watch: TBD
With the recent explosion in popularity of MMA in Brazil, don't be surprised if some major promotions pop up in the South American country. On Thursday, Best of the Best will hold its first show, which promises to be one you shouldn't miss.
After both fighters took one-year absences from MMA, former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho and former EliteXC champion Murilo Rua will compete in the main event.
The 34-year-old Filho is winless in his past three fights, but many would contend it is his mind that has gotten in the way of his continued success rather than a physical decline. Meanwhile, Rua had announced his retirement after losing against Tom Watson in a BAMMA middleweight title fight, but he has opted to return in hopes of capturing his first win since July 2010.
Filho and Rua have fallen on hard times in their careers, but they were both considered world-class fighters at one point in time and will have the ability to break out of their slumps after having a long time to ponder their future outside of the spotlight.
When: Sept. 29 at 9 a.m. ET
Where: Bangalore, India
How to Watch: YouTube Stream
This fight card is still in the process of being put together, but it already features an intriguing heavyweight scrap between former UFC fighters Todd Duffee and Jeff Monson. Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshii Ishii is also booked for the event and is expected to square off with Jimmy Ambriz.
After being released from the UFC and subsequently getting knocked out by Alistair Overeem, Duffee returned to the win column at Super Fight League 2, where he knocked out former Bellator contender Neil Grove in 34 seconds.
Meanwhile, Monson has gone undefeated in his four fights since coming up short in a decision against the now-retired Fedor Emelianenko.
Super Fight League is an India-based organization that has quickly gained steam by signing several heavyweights who make up for their lack of high-level talent with big-time name value. Bob Sapp, James Thompson and Bobby Lashley competed in the promotion's prior three events.
When: Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Gdansk, Poland
How to Watch: TBD
Poland is quietly becoming home to some very bright MMA prospects, so it goes to reason that the country would host one of the more notable promotions in Europe. In Jan Blachowicz, KSW holds the contract of one of the better light heavyweights competing outside the UFC.
Blachowicz has won 12 of his past 13 fights and will be looking for a third straight win against a former UFC fighter at KSW 20. After besting Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Mario Miranda in back-to-back appearances, Blachowicz is prepared to draw the interest of the UFC brass with a strong performance against Houston Alexander.
In addition to the main event between Blachowicz and Alexander, KSW 20 will feature the return of Mariusz Pudzianowski, who was a five-time winner of The World's Strongest Man competition before entering MMA. Pudzianowski is coming off of a win over Bob Sapp and will look to make it two in a row against Christos Piliafas.
When: Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Atlantic City, N.J.
How to Watch: MTV 2
At Bellator 74, the organization's latest welterweight tournament will commence with eight fighters vying to face the winner of an eventual title fight between champion Ben Askren and most recent 170-pound tournament winner Karl Amoussou.
All four quarterfinal bouts will be contested at Bellator 74. Dream champion Marius Zaromski will fight Nordine Taleb, the undefeated Andrey Koreshkov will battle Jordan Smith, bright prospects Michael Tsarev and Tim Welch will compete for notoriety and former Bellator champion Lyman Good will try to re-assert his standing against Jim Wallhead.
In addition to the tournament contests, past featherweight tournament competitor Alexandre Bezerra will welcome Jeff Smith to the Bellator cage.
When: Sept. 29 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Sacramento, Calif.
How to Watch: Showtime
Highly ranked lightweight Gilbert Melendez will attempt to defend his Strikeforce title for the fifth consecutive time when he meets Pat Healy at the end of September. Melendez is coming off of a somewhat controversial title defense against Josh Thomson, so he'll be looking to make a statement against Healy to be sure.
Healy has won five straight fights to earn his shot at the Strikeforce belt, but his most recent loss came against none other than Thomson, who will also be fighting at this event in a matchup against Caros Fodor.
Jorge Santiago will return to Strikeforce at this event shortly after being released from the UFC. Despite his troubles in two Octagon appearances, Santiago should still be considered one of the better middleweights competing outside of the UFC, and he will try to prove that against Quinn Mulhern.
Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy features a number of other notable fighters, including Mike Kyle and Jorge Gurgel. The event will take place on the same day as UFC on Fuel TV 5, but it could be considered an even stronger fight card.