At the Bellator 186 post-fight press scrum, Scott Coker told Cageside Press he’d have news about the heavyweight title situation in a couple of weeks. Now we’ve got word — and despite Coker’s earlier comments, the promotion will put on a heavyweight tournament in 2018 to crown a new champion.
Behold, Bellator’s Heavyweight World Grand Prix 2018. Eight men will fight throughout the year, with the finals coming in December 2018 barring any injury or unforeseen circumstances. Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione, and Frank Mir will all partake. So to will Ryan Bader, Rampage Jackson, Chael Sonnen, and King Mo Lawal. MMA Junkie first reported the news.
It’s a curious choice for a number of reasons. As recently as Bellator 185, Scott Coker told the media that a tournament wasn’t in the cards just yet. “I’d like to crown a champion first, then we can talk about that” he told Cageside Press in Uncasville, CT, following Gegard Mousasi’s debut in the promotion. It appears plans changed.
Beyond that, half the tournament is stocked with light heavyweights. Ryan Bader, the current Bellator light heavyweight champ, told us following Bellator 186 that “I’d love to be a two-division champion. I walk around at 230, I feel like I’d be fast, strong for heavyweight, because I’m in here with these 205lb’ers that are fast.” Chael Sonnen just came off a win over Wanderlei Silva at Bellator NYC, and had been setting up a bout with the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. Jackson just re-signed with Bellator, and King Mo, meanwhile, is the lone fighter with any real heavyweight experience in the promotion.
Also notable is who isn’t in the tournament: missing is Cheick Kongo, one of the best heavyweights on the Bellator roster. Bobby Lashley is out as well, despite being one of the company’s top draws. So to is Phil Davis, who like Bader told the media following Bellator 186 that he’d be down to fight up in weight.
Still, it’s an impressive line-up. A chance to see Nelson vs. Mir 2, Fedor vs. Mitrione 2, and any number of other combinations.
“This is going to be something that’s iconic for us,” Coker told MMA Junkie. “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.”
The seeding of the tournament and initial dates are expected to be announced shortly.