Scott Coker and the team at Bellator dropped a bombshell earlier this month that they are putting together heavyweight Grand Prix event to crown a new heavyweight champ. The Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix tournament is officially set, with the opening round matchups scheduled to take place in early 2018.
The promotion is hosting the eight-man tournament at Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix, and the winner will crown the vacant Bellator title.
On Tuesday night, the opening-round matchups for Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 revealed.
Even Tournament contestant Chael Sonnen joined the ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and break down his thoughts on opening round matchups:
Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson:
“Ugh, Mitrione got a bad deal in some ways. He was one fight away from being a world champion. Now he finds out he’s three fights away. He and I must have had completely opposite perspectives when we got the news. He must have said, “Oh, geez, you’re telling me I need to win three fights?” I got the phone call and said, “Wow, I can win three fights and be a world champion? I didn’t see that coming.” I think Mitrione is the best heavyweight out there. When I say that, it’s usually met with resistance, but it’s my opinion, and I mean it. They have fought before though, and Roy beat him (December 2012). That does matter, and they both remember that.”
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs. Chael Sonnen
“Rampage and I have heat that goes way back. Last time we were together, we had to be separated in a hotel lobby in Arizona. I always thought that match could happen, but I thought it was impossible because he was going back to the UFC. Contractually, I’m not privy to how that worked out, but I’m happy it did. What other reason is there to fight than two guys want to?”
Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal vs. Ryan Bader
“I didn’t fully get it at first. You’ve got the light heavyweight champion in Bader, taking on a fellow light heavyweight in Mo, but the belt isn’t on the line. So, let’s say Mo wins, beats the light heavyweight champion … he doesn’t become the champion? Just the drama in that is compelling. It’s going to piss a lot of people off, which is good for the sport, right? Get people arguing about something. Those are the two most athletic guys. They actually met up in college wrestling (in 2003), quarterfinals of the NCAA, and Mo beat him pretty soundly. So, Mo knows he can beat him, believes he can beat him — and Bader wants that back. That’s very interesting.”
Frank Mir vs. Fedor Emelianenko
“Love this fight. Pride champion vs. UFC champion. I don’t know if I agree that Fedor’s been as rusty as others think. You take that Mitrione fight (TKO loss in June), Fedor knocked Mitrione out — it just turned out he was knocked out at the exact same time. That was just a really weird match. But go back to when Fabricio Werdum beat him (June 2010), none of us knew how good Werdum was. Take when Antonio Silva beat him (February 2011). You want to talk about size disadvantages? Silva goes in there close to 300 pounds. I would never take my eye off the Fedor ball. I have always respected him and still do.”
The Sonnen vs. Jackson winner will face the winner of Emelianenko vs. Mir in one semifinal.
The winner of Mitrione vs. Nelson will face the Bader vs. Lawal winner in another semifinal.
Rampage vs. Sonnen will kick off the tournament at Bellator 192, which is taking place at the Forum in the Inglewood, CA on January 20th.
Mitrione vs. Nelson a Bellator event scheduled for Feb. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Fedor vs. Mir and Bader vs. king Lawal scheduled for April and May events, respectively.