Bellator president Scott Coker proceeded on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show on Monday and revealed that his promotion is planning on conducting a 16-man featherweight grand prix tournament. According to Coker, the championship will begin operating in October and will feature 16 of their best featherweights in Bellator, for example fighters in the division as well as bantamweights moving upward and possibly even lightweights moving . The featherweight championship follows at the forefront of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix, which only saw Ryan Bader crowned winner, and the welterweight tournament, which is still continuing.
Coker told Helwani he wants the first round of eight fights in the tournament to take place on one night or on back-to-back nights in the fall. He also said he needs the championship to complete within a year, which nearly mirrors the heavyweight and welterweight championship timelines.
As far as who will be one of the 16 fighters at the tournament, so far nobody has been announced, but Coker did say he wants Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire for a part of the tournament. Pitbull is taking on Michael Chandler in May for the Bellator lightweight name, so if he does participate in the tournament he will still be the winner, meaning that his belt is going to be on the line in every round of the tournament like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight title is online every time he fights.
As far as some other featherweights that are predicted to be in the tournament, here are a few who appear to be near locks: Growing prospect AJ McKee; top rival Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former high prospect Aaron Pico; former name competition Emmanuel Sanchez; and former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia.
The fact there are not 16 featherweights means that bantamweights are also encouraged to move up, and Coker already said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell is going to be requested to get involved in the tournament. I’d also anticipate Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be requested, as well. So far as lightweights go, there might possibly be a couple of fighters who could make the cut down a weight class involving Derek Campos, who just fought featherweight in his final fight, and Ryan Scope, who just lost a close struggle against Patricky”Pitbull” Freire.
It’s exciting to see Bellator continue to maintain these tournaments as the game of MMA was build on the championship format. The promotion’s bedrock back at the Bjorn Rebney days was the championships but when Coker first came in they started to go away in exchange for superfights and legends fights. But it seems like Coker, Bellator, Paramount and DAZN adore the tournaments as it is the third one the promotion will be running over the last two decades. Now, you need to wonder what another tournament for Bellator is, and if I had to guess that it would be something in the women’s divisions. For the time being, though, featherweight is getting a great set of fights.
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