Bellator has confirmed to Bleacher Report that its inaugural women's featherweight championship fight will take place May 20 at Bellator 155: Carvalho vs. Manhoef. Former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen (23-6) will square off against Julia Budd (8-2) in the the featured prelim of the card, airing live on Bellator.com and The Bellator Mobile App.
Coenen, who hails from the Netherlands, has gone 2-0 in Bellator since her debut in October 2014. Her first victory in the promotion came via rear-naked choke on Annalisa Bucci. She finished her second fight with a submission as well—an armbar on Arlene Blencowe in August 2015. Since then, as Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAFighting.com's Dave Doyle in January, Coenen has been recovering from an injury.
Coker said, "The only holdup on Marloes vs. Julia is that Marloes has been injured. She'll be cleared soon. They'll fight for the title, if things go well it could be as early as April."
The 16-year MMA veteran lost the Strikeforce belt to current UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and has victories over UFC fighters Sarah Kaufman and Liz Carmouche. Prior to her Bellator debut, Coenen lost the inaugural Invicta FC Featherweight Championship to Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino via TKO in July 2013.
The bout will also be Budd's third in the promotion. She won her first two, against Gabrielle Holloway and Roberta Paim Rovel, by unanimous decision. Like Coenen, Budd fought under the Strikeforce banner; she moved to Invicta FC following a loss to Ronda Rousey via armbar in 2011. She has since racked up a six-fight win streak. This will be her first title fight.
Bellator has been cultivating its women's divisions, featherweight and flyweight, since Coker replaced founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney as Bellator's president. The divisions are an attractive home for 125- and 145-pound female fighters who fail to prosper at strawweight and bantamweight (the UFC's two women's divisions).
A fight for the middleweight belt between current champion Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef headlines Bellator 155, which will take place at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Featherweights Pat Curran and Georgi Karakhanyan will fight in the penultimate match.