Bellator president Scott Coker proceeded on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show on Monday and revealed the news 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 top featherweights in Bellator, including fighters in the branch in addition to bantamweights moving up and possibly even lightweights moving down. The featherweight tournament follows in the footsteps of the advertising’s heavyweight grand prix, which only saw Ryan Bader crowned champion, and the welterweight tournament, which is still ongoing.
Coker advised Helwani he needs the first round of eight fights in the tournament to take place on one night or about back-to-back nights at the autumn. In addition, he said he wants the tournament to complete within a calendar year, which practically mirrors the heavyweight and welterweight tournament timelines.
As far as that will be among the 16 fighters at the tournament, so far no one has been announced, but Coker did say he wants Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire to be part of the championship game. Pitbull is taking on Michael Chandler in May for its Bellator lightweight name, so if he does take part in the championship he’ll be the champion, meaning that his belt is going to be on the line in every round of this tournament like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight title is on the line each time he fights.
As far as some other featherweights who are predicted to be in the tournament, here are some who appear to be close locks: Growing prospect AJ McKee; leading rival Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former top prospect Aaron Pico; former title competition Emmanuel Sanchez; and former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia.
The fact there are not 16 featherweights means that bantamweights are also invited to move up, and Coker said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell is going to be asked to take part in the tournament. I’d also expect Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be asked, too. So far as lightweights go, there could potentially be a couple of fighters who could make the cut down a weight class including Derek Campos, who simply fought at featherweight in his final struggle, and Ryan Scope, who just lost a close fight against Patricky”Pitbull” Freire.
It’s fascinating to see Bellator continue to maintain these tournaments as the game of MMA was build on the tournament format. The advertising’s bedrock back in the Bjorn Rebney days was the tournaments but when Coker initially came in they started to go out in trade for superfights and legends fights. Nonetheless, 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. At this point, you have to wonder what another tournament for Bellator is, and if I had to guess that it could be something in the women’s branches. For the time being, however, featherweight is getting a fantastic pair of conflicts.
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