During the Bjorn Rebney regime, Bellator was the home to the “Toughest Tournament in Sports.”
When Scott Coker took leadership of the California-based organization, he did away with that format in favor of a more traditional schedule. However, Coker has never been one to shy away from putting together a bracket when the opportunity presents itself — just look at the star-studded grand prix he held as president of Strikeforce from 2011-2012.
That’s why Coker didn’t hesitate to do something similar in Bellator this year, as the organization compiled an interesting bracket filled with big names for its own heavyweight tournament.
On Saturday, Ryan Bader’s 15-second knockout of Muhammed Lawal in the Bellator 199 headliner marked the conclusion of the opening round of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix. Nothing is official yet, but Coker said that September will be the target for the semifinal matchups, which will see Chael Sonnen square off with Fedor Emelianenko and Bader lock horns with Matt Mitrione.
“I’m excited about Fedor fighting Chael Sonnen. That’s gonna be a really fun fight. I think that’s gonna be interesting to see how strategically how Chael and Fedor try to battle each other. Mitrione and Bader, that’s gonna be a fun fight too,” Coker told media at the Bellator 199 post-fight press conference. “I think we’ve got two amazing semifinal fights and I’m looking forward to hosting them in September.”
Coker seems to be happy with the heavyweight tournament so far, and while Bellator may never go back to its old format, he isn’t ruling out the possibility of holding more brackets down the road.
“I want to get through the heavyweight tournament first, but I think it’s a great format for us and I believe that there’s a place for tournaments in MMA,” Coker said. “I think this grand prix tournament proves that it’s something worth doing. For us it’s great because it crowns our new heavyweight champion. Don’t be surprised if you see another tournament or so next year.”