Charlie Campbell, from East Rockaway, makes his Bellator debut at Bellator...

Charlie Campbell, from East Rockaway, makes his Bellator debut at Bellator 243 on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, at Mohegan Sun. Credit: Bellator MMA/Lucas Noonan

Most everything will be new for Charlie Campbell on Friday night. New fight promotion in Bellator. New division in lightweight. And no Campbell loyalists in the crowd cheering for the Serra-Longo fighter from East Rockaway.

"It sounds cliche, but really all that matters is the guy across from me, and myself," Campbell said. "The fact that there aren't going to be spectators adds to the fact that I'll be even more comfortable. I love having my fans and loved ones come out and watch me in person. But the fact that they won't be there screaming might help me even more so in controlling my emotions."

Campbell makes his Bellator debut with a short-notice bout against Nainoa Dung at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The lightweight bout between the up-and-coming fighters is on the prelims of Bellator 243, headlined by Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson, and will stream on Bellator's YouTube channel.

Campbell made his pro debut in May 2019 at Ring of Combat, a regional promotion based in New Jersey where the seats are filled with friends, teammates, gymmates and family of those fighting inside the cage. Bellator presents a bigger stage for Campbell, 25, even if there are no fans allowed in the arena, as has been the case with most every sporting event since they returned, in part, in May after the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to a halt in mid-March.

"I feel like I'm going to feel like I'm in my gym," Campbell said about fighting without fans. The only familiar voices for Campbell will be cornermen Dylan Mantello, Steven Lee and Austin Halik, all teammates from Longo and Weidman MMA in Garden City and Serra BJJ in Huntington.

This is a longer fight week than Campbell is used to in his seven previous fights (two pro, five amateur). Typically, he'd arrive the day before weigh-ins for a Ring of Combat event. For Bellator 243, he arrived at Mohegan Sun on Sunday for pre-fight COVID-19 testing. After two full days in Uncasville, Campbell said he was settled in and feeling comfortable with his weeklong surroundings.

"It's not like I'm on the other side of the world from Long Island," he said. "Just being under their roof, I'm constantly passing the arena, it just feels like home at this point. It's like I'm fighting in my basement. So I'm up in the room and downstairs is where I'm fighting. It just makes me comfortable. And I think it's going to be a really good performance for me because of that."

Campbell (1-1) last fought in November and lost by unanimous decision. Dung (3-1, 2-1 Bellator), a 21-year-old prospect from Hawaii, lost his last fight in December.

An injury delayed Campbell's return earlier this year. Then the pandemic canceled the Ring of Combat event in May. And now here he is in Bellator on a prelim fight, with an opportunity to put himself on the positive side of a retweetable highlight moment that maybe lands him something more than a one-fight deal with a prominent and global mixed martial arts company.

"Everything happens for a reason," Campbell said. "I'm going to make the most of it and make everyone proud."

Bellator 243 fight card

Main card, 10 p.m. ET on Paramount Network and DAZN

Lightweight Main Event: Michael Chandler (20-5) vs. Benson Henderson (28-8)

Heavyweight Co-Main Event: Matt Mitrione (13-7, 1 NC) vs. Timothy Johnson (13-6)

Lightweight Main Card Bout: Myles Jury (18-5) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (29-10-1, 1 NC)

175-Pound Contract Weight Main Card Bout: Sabah Homasi (13-8) vs. Curtis Millender (18-5)

Prelims, 6:45 pm. on Bellator MMA’s YouTube Channel

150-Pound Contract Weight Preliminary Bout: Adam Borics (14-1) vs. Mike Hamel (7-3)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Cris Lencioni (6-2) vs. AJ Agazarm (3-1)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Valerie Loureda (2-0) vs. Tara Graff (1-1)

Light Heavyweight Preliminary Bout: Grant Neal (3-0) vs. Hamza Salim (5-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Nainoa Dung (3-1) vs. Charlie Campbell (1-1)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Dalton Rosta (2-0) vs. Mark Gardner (1-1)

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