Mixed Martial Arts

Bell announces his Bellator return date as IOC fighters stay busy

By Ray Hamill — It’s been a busy couple of months for the Institute of Combat fighters, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.

Most notably, Cass Bell will make his much anticipated return to the MMA cage when he competes at a Bellator event in Connecticut on Dec. 9.

The experienced Bell has not fought since April of last year, but will be back in action when he takes on a yet-to-be-announced opponent on the East Coast.

“I’m super excited,” Bell said. “I have’t fought in a while, so I’m ready to get back in there. I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been.”

Bell is 5-2 as a pro and all seven of his fights have been at Bellator events.

The 35-year-old was the first locally based fighter to break through to the big time and he won his first five Bellator fights before dropping two straight, both of which was held without fans because of the pandemic.

But he’s eager to get back in the cage and looking forward to the opportunity.

“I’m excited to fight in front of a crowd again,” he said. “And do what I normally do.

“I’m back to training full-time and super focused.”

Bell is a former Arcata High wrestler and the current head coach of the program.

He also has been busy training several younger fighters at the IOC — as well as some older ones — along with head trainer John “Juan” Thompson.

The two experienced trainers have been busy traveling to several events with their fighters over the past couple of months and they’ve enjoyed plenty of success.

Last weekend, three of their fighters competed at a a Muay Thai event in San Jose, including inspirational 37-year-old Brian Shields.

After breaking his collar bone during a fight last year, Shields battled his way back and returned with a bang to win on a third-round TKO.

“I know a lot of guys who would have stopped after that, but he came back and he worked his butt off and he got the W,” Bell said.

Shields’ teammate Matt Commesso also won at San Jose last week with an unanimous decision.

Submitted photo – Cass Bell

Jaxon Santander also was in action for the IOC. After his opponent dropped out at the last minute, Santander was given the option of fighting an experienced opponent and accepted, losing in the third round but gaining some valuable experience.

The IOC team will be in action this weekend at the latest 599 Fights event, with two fighters — Lypin Lee and Israel Smith — scheduled to compete.

Lee, who will fight at 155 pounds, is 1-1 and is coming off a TKO victory in his last fight.

“He’s more of a stand-up fighter,” Bell said. “He has some good hands. He knocked out his last opponent in the first round.”

Smith is also 1-1 and will fight at 140.

“He’s good all around,” Bell said. “He’s got really good jiu jitsu skills.”

More IOC fighters will be in action in Napa next week, including Colton Smith (0-1, 155) and Gabriel Smith (3-2, 125), the latter of whom is ranked No.5 in the state for his weight class and will fight for the flyweight title at the event.

Teammate Dupree Stewart is also highly-ranked in the state in his weight class (No. 15 at 170) and will be back in action in two weeks at Visalia, where he will fight for both the California State title and the 599 belt.

The IOC’s Stephen Vigil (0-1) will fight on the same card at 145.

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