From a press release:
Bellator Fighting Championships today announced the promotion's inaugural Light Heavyweight World Championship Tournament which will take place in Bellator's much anticipated fourth season. The eight-man 205 lbs. Tournament will start in March, 2011. The eight Light Heavyweights will determine their own destiny in the cage on the road to the first Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship belt and $100,000 to the tournament winner.
An exhaustive search is currently underway to find the best available light heavyweights the MMA world has to offer. With six of the eight fighters already selected, announcements regarding confirmed participants of the 2011 Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament are anticipated in the coming days.
"We've wanted to add a Light Heavyweight World Championship Tournament since Season 1, but wanted to ensure that when we did it, we had a great group fighting for the title. Now, we do," said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. "One of the best parts of my job is handing over the Bellator World Title belt to a new champion, and I'll have the pleasure of doing it again this upcoming season."
Current Bellator Champions include, Hector Lombard at middleweight, Ben Askren at welterweight, Eddie Alvarez at lightweight, Joe Warren at featherweight, Zack Makovsky at bantamweight, Cole Konrad at heavyweight and Zoila Frausto in the women's 115 lbs. Division.
I'm very curious to see who they've got. Light heavyweight, as a division, is one of the toughest nuts to crack. The UFC has a virtual stranglehold on the division. Tito Ortiz once told me he couldn't sign with Strikeforce - whose light heavyweight division is sure to be far better than Bellator's - because he wasn't certain there'd be enough opponents to fight. Currently,
Trevor Prangley There is no fighter outside of Strikeforce or UFC who is ranked in the top 25.
Bellator is likely to not bother with poaching talent. They'll continue to do what they've always done better than most, find and groom exciting prospects. I just have to wonder how deep the well is at light heavyweight beyond the shores of UFC and Strikeforce such that investing the Bellator product there makes sense. And even if they find prospects of intrigue or potential, will it matter? Bellator's Cole Konrad is a force to be reckoned with, but is hardly lighting MMA's fans or television's ratings pants on fire. Add to that this will air on a station some cable carriers place on a premium tier and it will predominately air in standard definition.
I'm very eager to see who they are able to put together for the next season and whether they can achieve the success at light heavyweight that they've enjoyed at featherweight and welterweight. Keith Jardine might be a noteworthy addition. There are others I'm sure I'm not considering. Still, the challenges in putting this together are considerable. What Bellator needs as much as available talent is a few lucky breaks. I'll be watching to see if they get them.