Bellator heavyweight title tourney: Fedor, Mir, ‘Rampage,’ Sonnen among big names booked
As expected, Bellator MMA will indeed crown a new heavyweight champion in 2018, but rather than a simple title fight to fill the vacant slot, the promotion has put together a blockbuster tournament featuring a bevy of MMA superstars.
Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAjunkie and USA TODAY Sports that the company will host an eight-man heavyweight tournament known as the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018, with the winner earning the vacant Bellator belt.
“This is going to be something that’s iconic for us,” Coker said. “Tournaments, traditionally, are kind of the way martial arts contests happen. Now we get to put eight iconic brand names in our sport together over a year, and then whoever wins will be crowned the heavyweight champion.”
Additionally, four light heavyweight stars are moving up a division for a chance at heavyweight gold, with current 205-pound champ Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), former UFC champ Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA), ex-Strikeforce titleholder Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) and multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) also confirmed for the grand prix.
The tournament bouts will be contested throughout 2018, with the current plan calling for one tournament fight per night at seven yet-to-be-decided Bellator events. The final is tentatively scheduled for December 2018.
The tournament draw will be determined in the near future.
“These fights that we’re going to put together are something that the fans want to see. These are iconic names, big brands.”
Bellator’s heavyweight championship has been vacant since May 2016, when the promotion stripped then-champ Vitaly Minakov of the belt for failing to defend the title.
The first date of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 is expected to be announced soon. All of Bellator’s events will air on the Paramount Network, which launches in January as a rebranding of the promotion’s current broadcast home, Spike.
“When Scott Coker signed on with Bellator in 2014, we knew that he would constantly innovate and bring new and creative ideas to the promotion,” Spike Senior Vice President of Sports and Specials Jon Slusser said. “The heavyweight grand prix is a perfect example of that. The tournament will provide outstanding sports content for the soon-to-launch Paramount Network in 2018, and we’re excited about delivering this type of entertainment to our viewers.”
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