Bellator president Scott Coker proceeded on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show on Monday and disclosed the news that his marketing is planning on running a 16-man featherweight grand prix tournament. According to Coker, the championship will begin running in October and will feature 16 of the best featherweights in Bellator, for example fighters already in the division in addition to bantamweights moving upward and potentially even lightweights moving down. The featherweight championship follows at the forefront of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix, which only watched Ryan Bader crowned champion, and the welterweight tournament, which remains ongoing.
Coker advised Helwani he wants the first round of eight fights in the championship to take place on a single night or about back-to-back nights at the autumn. He also said he needs the tournament to complete within a calendar year, which nearly mirrors the heavyweight and welterweight championship timelines.
As far as who will be one of the 16 fighters at the championship, so far nobody has been announced, however, Coker did say that he wants Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire for a part of the championship game. Pitbull is taking on Michael Chandler in May for its Bellator lightweight title, so if he will take part in the championship he’ll still be the champion, meaning his belt will be on the line in every round of the tournament like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight name is on the line each time he fights.
As far as some other featherweights that are predicted to maintain the tournament, here are some who appear to be near locks: Rising prospect AJ McKee; leading contender Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former top prospect Aaron Pico; former title contender 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 already said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell is going to be asked to take part in the championship. I’d also expect Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be requested, as well. So far as lightweights proceed, there could potentially be a couple of fighters who could create the cut down a weight class involving Derek Campos, who simply fought at featherweight in his final fight, and Ryan Scope, who just lost a close fight against Patricky”Pitbull” Freire.
It’s exciting to see Bellator continue to hold such tournaments as the sport of MMA was build on the tournament format. The advertising’s bedrock back at the Bjorn Rebney days was the tournaments but when Coker initially came in they started to go away in trade for superfights and legends conflicts. But it feels like Coker, Bellator, Paramount and DAZN adore the tournaments as this is the third one the promotion will be running within the last two years. At this point, you need to wonder what another tournament for Bellator is, and when I had to guess that it could be something in the women’s divisions. For the time being, however, featherweight is getting a great set of conflicts.
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