Amsterdam, Holland – When Team England submitted their roster for the June 6 best-of-five M-1 Challenge (www.M-1Global.com) matchup vs. France, light heavyweight Tom Blackledge was a noticeable absentee.
Following a successful M-1 debut this past April in Japan in which Blackledge submitted Tatsuya Mizuno with a rear naked choke at 3:22 of round 1, Blackledge emerged as one of England’s team leaders.
At the time, Team England indicated that Blackledge had been scratched due to injury. However, reports have surfaced that the Wolfslair Academy product was busy assisting teammate and close friend Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as a coach during the recent taping of Spike TV’s hit reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
The upcoming tenth season, featuring heavyweights Roy Nelson and Kimbo Slice, was shot over the course of six weeks in Las Vegas, preventing Blackledge from competing. But when England attempts to clinch a playoff berth by winning its best-of-five matchup vs. Group A rival Team Spain, Blackledge will be back in action.
Blackledge will look to improve his M-1 Challenge record to 2-0 when he faces Spain light heavyweight Enoc Solves at Studio 22 in Hilversum, Holland on August 15. The Team Spain vs. Team England matchup will be one of six M-1 Challenge matchups featured during a two-day mega taping.
And while Blackledge will be returning to the Team England fold, the squad will be without both lightweight Ian Butlin and heavyweight Rob Broughton. Butlin, recently featured in a documentary on Bravo in the U.K., has been forced to retire due to multiple facial fractures. Meanwhile, Broughton, who had been scheduled to take on Jessie Gibbs on Aug. 1 at Affliction’s ill-fated “Trilogy” event, will remain off the roster as it is rumored he could face Gibbs on Aug. 28 during M-1 Global’s “Breakthrough” event in Los Angeles.
Stepping in for Butlin is Scott Hewitt while David Keeley has gotten the call to fill Broughton’s shoes. Hewitt is a former professional soccer and rugby player and is 1-0 since making his professional MMA debut, thanks to his prior training in both boxing and judo. Like Hewitt, Keeley is also undefeated (3-0) and was a professional athlete before converting to MMA. A former basketball player, the 27-year old will become the tallest competitor ever to fight for the M-1 Challenge at 6’10”.
“What Dave Keeley lacks in experience he more than makes up with enthusiasm, power and freakish size,” said England coach Aaron Chatfield. “He has a challenge in front of him, but we are confident Dave (and his team) will rise to.”
“M-1 Challenge is known for it’s huge heavyweights and at six foot, ten inches, we feel we have the biggest heavyweight out there now,” said team manager Ian Dean. “We are confident of him doing the business, especially if the five bout series against Team Spain comes down to the clutch fifth bout.”
Joining Blackledge, Hewitt, and Keeley will be returnees Simon Phillips (welterweight) and Matt Thorpe (middleweight). Tied with Team France with overall records of 1-1 and individual records of 5-5, a Team England win combined with a Team France loss sends the British to the M-1 Challenge semifinals in just their first season. If both teams win or both teams lose, the team with the most individual wins will advance.
The current lineup for the Team England vs. Team Spain matchup on Aug. 15 at Studio 22 in Hilversum, Holland is as follows:
Team Challenge #1: Spain vs. England
1. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Jose Roque vs. Scott Hewitt
2. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Jonathan Leon vs. Simon Phillips
3. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Rafael Rodriguez vs. Matt Thorpe
4. Light Heavyweight (204.8 lbs./-93 kg): Enoc Solbes vs. Tom Blackledge
5. Heavyweight (+204.8 lbs./+93 kg): TBA vs. David Keeley
For complete lineups of the 30 fights scheduled for a “weekend of fighting,” please visit the “Events section at www.M-1Global.com.