Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix – A Tournament With Mass Appeal by The Gonzo Shark
On Saturday, January 20th, Bellator MMA will kick off the highly anticipated and vastly intriguing 2018 Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament on the new Paramount Network. The promotion has selected eight premier fighters to battle for the Bellator Heavyweight Championship. The company does not currently have a reigning heavyweight stalwart that holds the gold, which makes it that much more interesting.
This promotion has been consistently on the rise for the past few years. Many notable fighters have crossed over from the UFC during that time who have been a gigantic catalyst in this steady growth and brand legitimacy. In fact, six of the eight men in this tournament were previously fighting for UFC: Ryan Bader, Chael Sonnen, Matt Mitrione, Roy Nelson, and two former UFC champions, Frank Mir and Rampage Jackson. However, “King Mo” Lawal and Fedor Emelianenko have never fought under the UFC banner. There is something about tournaments that make MMA more exciting, especially when the combatants are vying for a championship. It elevates everything to a much higher level and brings fans along on a journey thats takes months to culminate. It’s the perfect recipe for a quintessential “cinderella story”.
The Heavyweight Grand Prix is the brainchild of current Bellator President, Scott Coker, who introduced a similar heavyweight tournament in 2011 with Strikeforce, an organization that he founded in 1985 but was eventually purchased by the UFC in 2011. Strikeforce started as a kickboxing organization that ventured into the mixed-martial arts game in 2006. In the next five years the promotion would grow to be the second largest MMA promotion in the world, right behind UFC, and had television deals with both CBS and Showtime. Since becoming President of the company in 2014, Coker has managed to grow the Bellator brand in a very similar fashion. The promotion held it’s very first pay per view event last year from the world famous Madison Square Garden.
The part of this Grand Prix that is so compelling is the fact that only four of the contenders are natural heavyweights. The other men are moving up in weight to be a part of the tournament, which potentially makes for some very interesting matchups. It’s obvious that Bellator and Coker wanted to put the very best names from their roster on this marquee event, regardless of what weight class they currently fight in. Ryan Bader, for instance, is the current Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion and has the opportunity to hold championships simultaneously in separate weight classes. Other guys, like Frank Mir and Fedor Emelianenko, are at the twilight of their careers and both trying to rejuvenate themselves; and they will have the chance to do that when they face off against each other in the first round. This is actually a dream matchup for many fight fans.
The bracket is set up in a way that each man will face someone who’s a part of their natural weight class in the first round. I’m not sure if this was a calculated decision to set up the bracket that way or not. Regardless, it is inevitable that the second round will bring some insane mismatches, at least on paper. Frank Mir vs. Chael Sonnen. Ryan Bader vs. Roy Nelson. Fedor vs. Rampage. All of these are possible matches as this thing rolls on and they are most definitely “attention grabbers”. With the factors of so many fighters moving up in weight, the popularity of the names involved, and the fact that it’s for the championship makes this tournament truly unprecedented.
It is a revolutionary, must-see spectacle of equal parts skill, excitement, and brutality! Heavyweights are some of the hardest hitting, most exciting fighters on the planet and always seem to regularly have the most exciting fights of any division. If you are a fight fan, this is a tournament that you just can’t miss! The future of Bellator starts now. Tune in to the Paramount Network this Saturday at 9pm, as Chael Sonnen will do battle against Rampage Jackson in the first matchup of the tournament, Live & Free!
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