Bellator Returns to Action in April on Showtime, Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Announced

Corey Anderson Bellator MMA
Corey Anderson, Bellator 251 Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator’s “Special Announcement” on Thursday, made via press conference with a number of media outlets including Cageside Press attending virtually, should get fight fans excited. In addition to confirming that the #2 North American mixed martial arts promotion would be returning in April, promotion CEO Scott Coker also confirmed an exciting eight-man light heavyweight grand prix — featuring some of Bellator’s biggest names and free agent signings, including Corey Anderson, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Yoel Romero, Ryan Bader, and more.

Oh, and Bellator MMA has a new broadcast home in the U.S.: Showtime. MMA will be returning to the cable network for the first time in years. The deal will be exclusive, with CBS Sports Network no longer in play. Nor, presumably, is DAZN. Showtime chief Stephen Espinoza was on hand for Tuesday’s press conference.

Four events were announced on Tuesday:

  • Bellator 255 on April 2, which will feature the featherweight grand prix semi-final between Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez
  • Bellator 256 on April 9, kicking off the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix
  • Bellator 257 on April 16, which will continue the 205lb grand prix
  • Bellator 258 on May 7, featuring the bantamweight title fight between champ Juan Archuleta and Sergio Pettis

The last time the promotion ran a light heavyweight grand prix was in 2015, a one-night, four man tournament at Bellator 142: Dynamite! The tournament was won by Phil Davis, who defeated Emmanuel Newton and Francis Carmont (the later replacing King Mo, who dropped out after winning his first fight, against Linton Vassell, due to injury).

The full line-up for the 2021 installment of the light heavyweight grand prix is as follows:

  • Corey Anderson vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov – April 9
  • Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida – April 9
  • Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero – April 16
  • Vadim Nemkov vs. Phil Davis – April 16

As with the other grand prix tournaments that Scott Coker and co. have hosted, the title will be on the line throughout — making Nemkov vs. Davis on April 16 a title fight.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Coker confirmed that the promotion would be back on Friday’s moving forward. During its brief run on CBS Sports Network, the promotion had shifted events to Thursday nights. A women’s flyweight tournament, mulled throughout the past year or so, is on the back-burner: while the featherweight and light heavyweight tournaments will overlap, there is no plan to continue running two tournaments at once.