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Bellator MMA coming to Gwinnett

MMA

What: Bellator 88

When: Thursday

Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center

TV: SpikeTV

Noteworthy: Doors open at 7 p.m.; tickets start at $40

The toughest tournament in sports is coming to Gwinnett.

Bellator mixed martial arts is bringing its featherweight tournament and middleweight world championship fights to the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Thursday.

The Bellator 88 main event will feature Russian Alexander "Storm" Shlemenko against Brazilian Maiquel Falcao for the middleweight world title.

"Shlemenko vs. Falcao is a spectacular world title fight. If you like fights, this one has fight of the year written all over it," said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. "With 50 knockouts between the two, (Thursday) should be absolute fireworks from The Arena at Gwinnett Center and on Spike TV."

Bellator MMA is the largest tournament-based MMA organization in the world. It will bring that format to Gwinnett with its featherweight tournament, which will precede the Shlemenko vs. Falcao bout.

The tournament, which will air at 10 p.m. on SpikeTV, will feature four quarterfinal bouts and four feature fights. The undercard will have a local feel to it as five Atlanta area fighters will compete.

Ururahy Rodrigues (5-4) vs. Clay Harvison (9-5) and Jarrid Burke (5-2) vs. Joe Elmore (6-5) will pit Georgia fighters against each other.

Shlemenko won his second Bellator middleweight tournament in 2011. He has a 46-7 record, which includes a nine-fight winning streak going into Thursday's world championship bout.

"It was a long path for me," Shlemenko said. "It doesn't matter whom I will face to get my title, Falcao, or anyone else. I will smash my opponent, and win the title, because I have my country behind me."

Falcao is on a three match winning streak and holds a 31-4 record.

"I've had my sights set on the Bellator Middleweight title for a long time," Falcao said. "Bellator is my home, and nothing would make me happier to see my championship banner hanging in the rafters, and beating Shlemenko for the title."