Team Benelux Begins Quest To Return To M1 Challenge Finals




Amsterdam, Holland – After making the 2008 M-1 Challenge Championship Finals as Team Holland, last year's squad was re-christened at the start of 2009 as Team Benelux. The change was made to more accurately portray the diversity of its roster with its fighters not only hailing from the Netherlands, but neighboring Belgium and Luxembourg as well.

Locked and re-loaded, Team Benelux is poised to return to the finals in 2009 after losing the '08 M-1 Challenge Championship Cup to Team Imperial on its home turf in Amsterdam. Led by dynamic striker Jason Jones, Benelux began its campaign for redemption vs. Team Finland at the 2009 “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction” season opener this past February at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.

The Benelux vs. Finland best-of-five series will debut this Friday in the United States on HDNet at 8 p.m. ET. The premiere of the third episode of this year's M-1 Challenge will kick off a full night of MMA action on HDNet, as Benelux vs. Finland will be proceeded by “Inside MMA” at 9 p.m. ET and then a re-broadcast of DREAM.9 at 10 p.m. ET.

With both Benelux and Finland assigned to a deep Group C division that also includes USA East and Bulgaria, Friday's matchup is a must-win for both teams with only one team from each division advancing to the M-1 Challenge playoffs.

Despite heading into the fight vs. Finland as the favorite, viewers will see a Benelux team on Friday that is pushed to the limit. Even though Jones moving from middleweight to light heavyweight in order to create a roster spot for rugged striker Kamil Uygun, Benelux found that this year's version of Team Finland is even stronger than last year.

With aging veteran heavyweight Jarno Nurminen no longer competing on a full-time basis, Finland's Toni Valtonen made the move from light heavyweight to heavyweight in order to create a roster spot for rising prospect Marcus Vanttinen. Jones learned first hand why Valtonen was willing to accommodate his talented teammate after Vanttinen took him the distance. Will the judges rule in Jones' favor or will Vanttinen score the upset? Tune into HDNet this Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

Joining Valtonen and Vanttinen on the Finland roster is perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the M-1 Challenge, middleweight Lucio Linhares.

Linhares, who faces Uygun on Friday's episode, is a jiu-jitsu black belt with an 11-4 professional MMA record. He has become one of the most well-known fighters in his adopted home country of Finland with notable wins over the likes of former UFC middleweight Sean Salmon, M-1 Challenge “Super Fight” competitor Karl Amoussou, current Bellator Fighting Championship competitor Moyses Gabin, as well as Valtonen, his current teammate.

Valtonen entered the '09 opener with a 17-8 overall record and an impressive 3-1 mark recorded during M-1 Challenge competition last year. An expected mega-fight with Benelux heavyweight Jessie Gibbs was scratched due to an injury to Gibbs with Valtonen instead pitted against hotshot heavyweight prospect Sander Duyvis.

In addition to Jones vs. Vanttinen, Linhares vs. Uygun and Valtonen vs. Duyvis, viewers will also see two other fights at lightweight with Danny van Bergen of Benelux taking on Juha-Pekka Vainikainen and a welterweight contest with Finnish submission specialist Janne Tulirinta taking on Benelux's Tommy Depret.

The '09 M-1 Challenge will be airing all season long on HDNet every Friday at 8 p.m. ET. For more information on how to watch HDNet, go to And for more information on the M-1 Challenge, please visit

Latest MMA News

Roy Nelson

Roy Nelson Signs With Bellator, Targeted For Fall Debut

Roy Nelson is no longer with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). "Big Country" had been with the UFC since 2009. His bout with Alexander Volkov was...
Shannon Knapp

Shannon Knapp on UFC Adding Women’s Flyweights: ‘I Couldn’t be More Pleased’

Shannon Knapp isn't feeling slighted with the addition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) women's flyweight division. Knapp, who is the Invicta FC President, told...
Ben Askren

ONE Championship: Ben Askren Remains Unbeaten, Submits Agilan Thani

Over in Singapore Friday morning, former Bellator champion Ben Askren kept his unbeaten record intact, submitting Agilan Thani in the co-main event of ONE...

UFC 213: Jordan Mein’s Career Resurgence Continues vs. Belal Muhammad

Jordan Mein's post-retirement run inside the Octagon continues this July, as the 40-fight veteran takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC 213. Mein (29-11) has gone...

First Fight Signed for UFC 216 Between Gavin Tucker, Rick Glenn

The UFC's debut in Edmonton has an official bout, as Gavin Tucker welcomes Rick Glenn to Canada at UFC 216. Tucker (10-0) scored an upset...
Conor McGregor

Stephen Espinoza Wants Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather This Fall

If Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather throw down, the ideal timing for all parties involved would be early fall. The buzz surrounding a potential boxing...
Joaquim Silva

Joaquim Silva: ‘I Respect no One Once we Step Into The Octagon’

Joaquim Silva is all business when he competes. This Sunday night (May 28), Silva will do battle with Reza Madadi inside the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm,...
Conor McGregor

Dana White Claims Conor McGregor Called Tony Ferguson a Bum Who Doesn’t Deserve a...

If Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White is to be believed, Conor McGregor blasted Tony Ferguson via text. Ferguson hasn't been shy in expressing...
Valerie Letourneau

Valerie Letourneau: ‘I Cannot be Mad at The UFC For Doing The Right Thing’

Valerie Letourneau is happy that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has finally added a women's flyweight division. Letourneau is now a member of the Bellator...

Oscar De La Hoya: Boxing Won’t Recover From McGregor vs. Mayweather

Plenty of people are excited for the possibility that Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather could fight inside the boxing ring - Oscar De La...