Although it has been delayed a while, the Bellator MMA featherweight grand prix will be back sooner than most expect.
Bellator's 145-pound tournament was put on hold this past March after the promotion was forced to cancel events due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The organization confirmed to Sherdog today that the tournament will start back up in November with a trio of major bouts.
Bellator lightweight and featherweight champion Patricio Freire (30-4) will defend his 145-pound belt against Pedro Carvalho (11-3) in a quarterfinal matchup of the tournament. The scrap will headline Bellator 252, which will take place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Nov. 12. The two were originally slated to do battle back at Bellator 241 this past March, but the entire event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Freire reached the quarterfinals after besting current Bellator bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta. “Pitbull” took a unanimous decision in the opening round of the tournament in the Bellator 228 main event in September 2019. His opponent Carvalho advanced in tourney by tapping out Sam Sicilia in the round of 16, where “The Game” submitted the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran in the second round.
The other remaining quarterfinal match of Daniel Weichel vs. Emmanuel Sanchez – also scheduled for the ill-fated Bellator 241 card – will once again serve as a co-main event for the Freire-Carvalho showdown. The two combatants originally met at Bellator 159 in July 2016, and Weichel captured a very narrow decision over Sanchez. Both fighters picked up opening round victories to advance to the semi-finals at Bellator 228, with Weichel beating Saul Rogers and Emmanuel Sanchez dispatching Tywan Claxton.
The pace of the tournament won’t slow down at all, as the semifinals will kick off just one week later. Topping Bellator 253 on Nov. 19, which also takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena, is a battle pitting former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell (15-3) against undefeated sensation AJ McKee (16-0). Caldwell defeated Henry Corrales and Adam Borics to reach the semifinals, while McKee took care of Georgi Karakhanyan and Derek Campos to advance.
There is no word yet when the second semifinal matchup will take place, and it may depend on the condition of the winners of the Freire-Carvalho and Weichel-Sanchez bouts.