"I’m definitely not happy with the decision of putting me back into the tournament and having me do all that," Eddie Alvarez, MMAWeekly.com
Bellator is an organization that appeals to many fans of the sport by supporting both prospects and veterans in a MMA landscape living in the shadow of the Zuffa dominated American scene. They have grown from small market regional to intercontinental highly TV visible organization in a very short time, riding both the surge of MMA as a mainstream sport and through CEO Bjorn Rebney’s drive to make the promotion successful against the odds. One of the things that drew fans and fighters alike to Bellator was the tournament format that gave the bracket winner an immediate title shot and a hefty $100K prize that many fighters had never had a chance to parlay in other promotions. It harkened back to the PRIDE Grand Prix and also allowed lesser known fighters the chance to prove themselves to the public in a sport that often sees title shots and big paydays awarded only to recognized names.
Bellator has reaped many benefits from the tournament format in the first five seasons, displaying fantastic fights and luckily, a very low drop-out rate of participants. And recently, they have attracted the more experienced and talented veterans to solidify Bellator’s roster, while Sam Caplan has pulled some amazing prospects that makes you wonder what Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are doing in regards to building the future of UFC/Strikeforce rosters. Add into the equation the women’s divisions, a solid and knowledgeable broadcast team, and a few names that are mentioned in the top 15 of their division, you come up with a promotion that is hard to dislike.
But eventually you can start see the drawbacks of the "Where title shots are earned, not given" motto. Case in point, Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez is a perennial top 10 even top 5 candidate in most lightweight rankings and ruled as Bellator champion from Season 1, compiling a 6-0 record for Bellator, until his defeat at the hands of Michael Chandler in Season 5. Unfortunately, he’s become a victim of the tournament format in many ways. Of those seven fights, only three were title bouts (including the initial tournament finale title win) as Bellator decided to keep him active with 'super fights' that were really inconsequential in terms of building his brand. In that time he also had to take a fight at Dream 12 against Kikuno as Bellator was in between ‘seasons’. It may well be that Bellator’s championship clause, the downtime needed for a new opponent to emerge from a tournament, and the requirement that he re-enter and win the tourney to receive a rematch has not only soured Alvarez’s outlook on Bellator, but may have stifled his career. It’s hard to understand Bellator’s tournament stance considering the fact that Alvarez is a three-time Fight of the Year candidate, multiple promotion title holder, and gave Bellator the credibility to broker big TV deals as an MMA draw.
"I feel like if I went out and I fought Mike Chandler and he just completely dominated, I could understand them saying, ‘alright go back to the tournament, go back to the drawing board, and work your way up.’ I sort of look at it like you work your way up the corporate ladder and you show up 15 minutes late for work one day and you drove me back to the mail room."