Bellator president Scott Coker went 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 start running in October and will feature 16 of the top featherweights in Bellator, for example fighters already in the branch as well as bantamweights moving upward and potentially even lightweights moving down. The featherweight championship follows at the forefront of the advertising’s heavyweight grand prix, which only watched Ryan Bader crowned champion, and also the welterweight tournament, which is still continuing.
Coker told Helwani he needs the first round of eight fights from the tournament to take place on one night or about back-to-back nights at the fall. In addition, he said he needs the tournament to conclude within a year, which practically mirrors the heavyweight and welterweight tournament timelines.
As far as that will be among the 16 fighters in the tournament, so far nobody has been announced, however, Coker did say he desires Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire for a part of the tournament. Pitbull is taking on Michael Chandler in May for its Bellator lightweight name, so if he does participate in the tournament he will be the champion, meaning his belt is going to be at stake in each round of this tournament just like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight name is online every time he fights.
So far as some other featherweights that are expected to maintain the championship, here are some who seem to be near locks: Rising prospect AJ McKee; leading contender Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former high prospect Aaron Pico; former name contender Emmanuel Sanchez; and former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia.
The fact there aren’t 16 featherweights means that bantamweights will also be invited to move up, and Coker said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell will be requested to get involved in the tournament. I’d also expect Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be requested, too. So far as lightweights go, there could possibly be a few fighters who may create the cut down a weight class involving Derek Campos, who simply fought featherweight in his final struggle, 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 sport of MMA was build on the championship format. The promotion’s bedrock back at the Bjorn Rebney days was the tournaments but when Coker first came in they started to go out in exchange for superfights and legends conflicts. But it feels like Coker, Bellator, Paramount and DAZN adore the tournaments as this is the next one the advertising will be running over the last two years. Now, you need to wonder what the next tournament for Bellator is, and if I had to guess that it would be something in the women’s divisions. For the time being, however, featherweight has become a great pair of conflicts.
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