Neil Grove (right) is back in Bellator’s heavyweight tournament. | Photo: Keith Mills
Sambo specialist Blagoi Ivanov has suffered an unspecified injury and will be unable to compete in Bellator Fighting Championships’ fifth-season heavyweight tournament semifinals against Thiago Santos.
Stepping up in Ivanov’s stead will be eliminated tournament participant Neil Grove, who will lock horns with Santos at Bellator 56 on Oct. 29, Sherdog.com confirmed Wednesday with a source close to the situation. MMAJunkie.com first reported the change.
Bellator 56 will also feature a heavyweight semifinal scrap between Eric Prindle and Ron Sparks, as well as a welterweight championship contest pitting titleholder Ben Askren against fourth-season tourney winner Jay Hieron. Airing live on MTV2 and Epix, the event will emanate from Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
The change is the latest in a series of audibles made by Bellator to accommodate injuries and travel issues. Following his win over Grove in the quarterfinals, Mike Hayes was pulled from the tournament due to injury. Santos was tabbed as Hayes’ replacement following a victory over Josh Burns in an Oct. 8 alternate bout.
Though “Big Monster” Santos was originally supposed to compete in the tournament quarterfinals against Ivanov at Bellator 52, he was yanked from the draw and replaced by Zak Jensen on the day of the weigh-ins due to visa problems.
Grove has lost two of his last three contests. The South Africa native advanced to the finals of Bellator’s Season 3 tournament only to be submitted by Cole Konrad in the first round. The 6-foot-6 “Goliath” rebounded from the loss by posting a technical knockout win over Jensen in July, but was outpointed by Hayes on Oct. 1.