The tournament format is alive and well in Bellator MMA.
The California-based promotion revealed on Friday that it will crown a new heavyweight champion in 2018 through an eight-man bracket. Sherdog.com confirmed the news with a Bellator official following an initial report from MMAjunkie.com.
The tournament bouts will take place at seven different Bellator events throughout next year, with the final tentatively scheduled for December 2018. The winner of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 will receive the vacant heavyweight crown. Bellator has not held a heavyweight championship bout since Vitaly Minakov defended the crown with a five-round verdict against Cheick Kongo in April 2014. The promotion stripped Minakvo of the belt in 2016.
“This is going to be something that’s iconic for us,” Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAjunkie. “Tournaments, traditionally, are kind of the way martial arts contests happen. Now we get to put eight iconic brand names in our sport together over a year, and then whoever wins will be crowned the heavyweight champion.”
The bracket will feature four big-name heavyweights — Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione — as well as four fighters moving up from the light heavyweight division — Ryan Bader, Muhammed Lawal, Quinton Jackson and Chael Sonnen. The matchups for the opening round will be determined at a later date.
“I think there are certain fights that people want to see,” Coker said. “Believe me, we’re going to have some amazing matchups in this tournament. These fights that we’re going to put together are something that the fans want to see. These are iconic names, big brands.”