Spike TV President Kevin Kay spoke with Luke Thomas last month about the difficulty of Bellator's tournament structure.
"I think the tournament structure is hard," said Kay. "In no way do I mean that in a negative, as in we don't like the tournaments. It's just the explanation of it and the consistency of it and the injury quotient makes it hard for the audience to follow sometimes. They just have to continue to do a better job of explaining it and continue to do a better job of executing on it and keep your fingers crossed, hoping there's fewer injuries."
Now Bellator has adjusted the league's defining format. Formerly, in order to earn a title shot, you had to make it through a tournament. Going forward winning a tournament means you can get multiple title shots, without going back and winning another tournament.
The change is retroactive, so all fighters who have won a tournament in the past are now eligible for a title shot, at the discretion of the league. Previous tournament winners can enter a new tournament, if they want to.
The current pool of 33 title-eligible fighters, by weight division, is:
Bantamweight: Eduardo Dantas, Joe Warren, Marcos Galvao, Rafael Silva
Featherweight: Pat Curran, Patricio Pitbull, Daniel Straus, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, "Frodo" Khasbulaev, Daniel Weichel, Joe Warren.
Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez, Will Brooks, Michael Chandler, Pat Curran, Rick Hawn, Dave Jansen, David Rickels
Welterweight: Douglas Lim, Karl Amoussou, Andrey Koreshkov, Rick Hawn
Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko, Brennan Ward, Doug Marshall
Light Heavyweight: Emanuel Newton, Rampage Jackson, King Mo, Christian M’Pumbu, Atilla Vegh,
Heavyweight: Vitaly Minakov, Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo
The move will allow the organization to have Alvarez vs. Chandler 3.
"We're not moving away from the tournament format because it's what makes us who we are," said Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney to Thomas. "It isn't going anywhere. It's what we're all about, but if you can make a format change that opens up bigger and better opportunities for fighters and at the same time gives us bigger and better and more entertaining fights for fans, we're going to make that change.
"We're going to stay true to the format. It's still going to be there and it's still going to have the tournaments. You're still going to have to win that tournament to get a shot at a world title, so you're never taking away the core element where title shots are earned here, but you are giving yourself some great flexibility."
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