Cheick Kongo has been added to the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix as an alternate.
After promising for weeks that alternates for their World Heavyweight Grand Prix would be announced following Bellator 192 on Saturday night, Bellator MMA has unveiled the first pair. At the post-fight press conference at The Forum in L.A., Bellator CEO Scott Coker announced the duo, saying “we have a couple fighters that we are going to invite in as our first round of alternates.” The names? Cheick Kongo and Javy Ayala.
“As you know, things can happen in a tournament” Coker reminded the assembled media. “The last tournament I threw [Strikeforce Heavyweight GP], it was the third alternate fighter [Daniel Cormier, now UFC light heavyweight champion] that ended up winning the whole thing, in great fashion. He won tonight, so congratulations.”
And so Kongo is a necessity, as is Ayala, who Scott Coker pointed out “had a really great fight with Roy Nelson.”
As to why Kongo, a former title challenger currently on a five fight win streak, wasn’t included in the original tournament bracket, the CEO said that “he and Rampage are good friends and training partners. The decision was not to put him in the tournament because of their relationship.” With Rampage Jackson having lost to Chael Sonnen at Bellator 192, the door was opened for Kongo’s inclusion.
Don’t assume Kongo and Ayala will be fighting each other, however.
“That has not been determined yet” Coker set when asked if the duo would face off. “We’re going to reserve comment on that, only because we’ll probably be announcing two more heavyweights that we’ll invite this week.”
Who might those names be? Former UFC interim title holder Shane Carwin had previously discussed an offer from Bellator, but later announced via Facebook that he was done with MMA for good. Carwin has not fought since losing to Junior Dos Santos at UFC 131 in 2011. Pro wrestling star and Bellator heavyweight Bobby Lashley could be another possibility, but his wrestling obligations could hamper tournament appearances. Justin Wren, now 3-0 in the promotion, could also be an option.