Artem Vakhitov, GLORY 38. Photo: James Law/GLORY Sports International

GLORY light-heavyweight champion Artem Vakhitov makes his long-awaited return at GLORY 47, in what could be a step closer to cementing his legacy as one of the division’s greatest. 

The Russian returns to the country where he won the strap to fight No.2 Ariel Machado in the headliner of GLORY 47 in Lyon, France this Saturday.

Vakhitov will share the spotlight with French natives Cédric Doumbé, Yohan Lidon and Anissa Meksen in GLORY’s premiere event in Lyon with a strong emphasis on French talent.

In an attempt to gather more French interest in the sport of kickboxing, GLORY feature Doumbé, who seemed to be the next big thing until he lost his belt, somewhat surprisingly, to Murthel GroenhartMeksen, as well, is arguably the pound-for-pound best female kickboxer.

In spite of the big French names on the card, 26-year-old Vakhitov has a chance to shine in a league that could possibly be his own. 

The Russian won seven of his eight GLORY appearances, three of which by knockout and with a staggering 9:0 knockdown ratio. His only loss came by split-decision to former champion Saulo Cavalari, whom he beat two times afterwards.

Especially in the rubber match last February on GLORY 44 in Chicago Vakhitov put it on the Brazilian slugger by easily dispatching him in two rounds to decisively win the rivalry.

So much so that the champion broke his hand in the process and had to sit on the sideline for eight months.

New contenders emerge in the absence of Vakhitov

During Vakhitov’s leave of absence, the 209-pound division didn’t sit still. It gave time for new challengers to emerge, with Machado being the first in line for Vakhitov’s spot.

The Brazilian has been waiting in the wings since Vakhitov broke his hand moments after he won the GLORY 44 light-heavyweight contender tournament, beating Danyo Ilunga on points and avenging his fist GLORY loss to Zinedine Hameur-Lain by putting the Frenchman away in one round.

“He’s a great boxer, but I think I am the better fighter,” Vakhitov told MMA Plus about his upcoming opponent after the event in Chicago.

In return, Machado also had complimentary things to say about his opponent, although he aims to stop the Russian on his way to capture the gold: “Vakhitov is very fast and has very good footwork, he’s a very tough fighter. But I want to stop him in the second or third round, I think I see the way to do that.

“He hasn’t faced a fighter like me yet. I am smarter than him and I am stronger than him. I will go through the holes in his defense, stop him and take the belt back to Brazil.”

The winner awaits interim-champion Pavel Zhuravlev, who beat Cavalari at GLORY 43: New York to take the belt.

Number three-ranked Michael Duut could also be in line after his rapid win of the GLORY 45 light-heavyweight contender tournament, should he overcome Danyo Ilunga on December 9 on GLORY: REDEMPTION, a bout first reported by MMA Plus.

In the co-headline bout, Cédric Doumbé starts his second hunt for the GLORY welterweight title with a rematch against countryman Yohan Lidon.

The Frenchmen return to the city they fought each other for the first time in 2014 as part of the A1 Grand Prix Tournament final. The experienced Lidon won by decision and handed the 22-year-old Doumbé the third loss of his career.

A title shot will be on the line when Anissa Meksen and Funda Alkayis do battle on the GLORY 47 SuperFight Series.

The winner is expected to take on super bantamweight champion Tiffany van Soest on December 1 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of GLORY 48.

GLORY 47 Lyon Main Card

Light Heavyweight Title Headline Bout: Artem Vakhitov vs. Ariel Machado
Featherweight Tournament Final Bout: Winner of Bout A vs. Winner of Bout B
Welterweight Co-Headline Bout: Cédric Doumbé vs. Yohan Lidon
Featherweight Tournament Semifinal Bout B: Azize Hliali vs. Abdellah Ezbiri
Featherweight Tournament Semifinal Bout A: Fabio Pinca vs. Anvar Boynazarov

GLORY 47 SuperFight Series

Light Heavyweight Headline Bout: Florent Kaouachi vs. Abdarhmane Coulibaly
Featherweight Bout: Dylan Salvador vs. Massaro Glunder
Super Bantamweight Contender Bout: Anissa Meksen vs. Funda Alkayiş
Middleweight Bout: Ahaggan Yassine vs. Maxim Vorovski
Welterweight Bout: Jimmy Vienot vs. Alim Nabiyev