Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bellator’s year-long heavyweight tournament to choose the division champion begins on January 20 with Quinton Jackson vs. Chael Sonnen. The rest of the opening round is bracketed as follows:

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir
Bellator TBA
February 16
Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut

Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson
Bellator TBA
April TBA
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

Ryan Bader vs. Muhammed Lawal
Bellator TBA
SAP Center in San Jose, California

There has been some controversy over the inclusion of Fedor Emelianenko. The greatest heavyweight of all time has struggled of late. He lost his last fight, to Matt Mitrione, in 74 seconds. And before that, he lost a remarkably controversial home country decision to Fabio Maldonado. During a recent conversation with Kevin Iole, Bellator president Scott Coker addressed the issue.

“When you talk about heavyweights, like with Mitrione, they both punch each other in the face, knock each other down, Mitrione got up a little faster . . . and then he finished Fedor,” said Coker, as transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting. “But it could easily went the other way. Yes, guys that are fighting into their thirties should not be fighting 21-year-old kids like he was doing in the past but this is the perfect tournament for him.

“He wanted to come in. He said to me – through Jerry, the translator – I know that this is the fourth quarter for me and I want to compete, and I would love to be Bellator’s heavyweight world champion. When Fedor asks you that, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna say no? You have to say yes so we did and we gave him that respect and he’s gonna have an equal shot just like everybody else.”

“If you look at him and Frank Mir, Frank Mir’s coming off some losses, Fedor’s coming off some losses. This is kind of an equal fight in my mind and it’s gonna be great.”

“I believe that he hasn’t decided yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if he fought the tournament out and won the tournament, that he would retire the tournament champion and the heavyweight champion. What a way to have a great send off.

“Or if he loses the first fight to Frank Mir and gets stopped, he might call it a day too.”

The tournament starts next Saturday.