Bellator president Scott Coker went on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show on Monday and disclosed that his marketing is thinking about running 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 division in addition to bantamweights moving up and possibly even lightweights moving . The featherweight championship follows in the footsteps of this promotion’s heavyweight grand prix, which just watched Ryan Bader crowned winner, and the welterweight tournament, which is still ongoing.
Coker advised Helwani he needs the very first round of eight fights from the championship to take place on a single night or on back-to-back nights in the fall. In addition, he said he needs the tournament to complete within a 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 declared, but Coker did state that he desires Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire to be a part of the tournament. Pitbull is shooting on Michael Chandler in May for its Bellator lightweight name, so if he does participate in the tournament he’ll still be the champion, meaning that his belt will be at stake in each round of this tournament just like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight title is on the line each time he fights.
As far as other featherweights who are expected to be in the championship, here are some who appear to be close locks: Rising prospect AJ McKee; leading contender Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former top prospect Aaron Pico; former name contender Emmanuel Sanchez; and former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia.
The fact there are not 16 featherweights means that bantamweights will also be encouraged to move up, and Coker said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell will be requested to take part in the tournament. I’d also expect Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be requested, too. As far as lightweights proceed, there could possibly be a couple of fighters who may make the cut down a weight class including Derek Campos, who simply fought featherweight in his last fight, and Ryan Scope, who just lost a close struggle against Patricky”Pitbull” Freire.
It is fascinating to see Bellator continue to hold these tournaments as the game of MMA was build on the tournament format. The advertising’s bedrock back in the Bjorn Rebney days has been the championships 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 third one the advertising will be running over the last couple of years. Now, you need to wonder what the next tournament for Bellator will be, and if I had to guess that it would be something in the women’s divisions. For now, however, featherweight is getting a great pair of fights.
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