Bellator has undergone some major transformations over the past year. Most of the old guard (in terms of staff) are gone. The CEO, Bjorn Rebney, was replaced by Scott Coker, and with his exit came some major structural reforms as well. The tournament, the center-point of Bellator's organizational mantra has been abandoned. A lot of the roster was trimmed back. Gone are the days of Bellator putting on 10 events in 10 weeks. Now one a month is more the norm.
Some fighters are happy for the change. It's easier to stay healthy when you're not fighting 4 times in four months, there's potentially more money around to pay for bigger name talent, and top draws are no longer going through 2 or 3 fights just to get a shot at the title. But not everyone is pleased. Kazakstani-born Russian fighter Alexander Sarnavskiy, who takes on Polish grappling sensation Marcin Held at Bellator 136, spoke to Bloody Elbow about the move away from tournament MMA:
I think that the tournament format was way more honest. Because, with the tournament a fighter has to prove to everyone that he's the best, that he's the strongest, then he automatically gets a title shot. Now it's up too promoters, to matchmakers. I prefer a tournament to that. I think it has to do with sports rather than entertainers.
There's definitely a strong "your either good enough or you're not" old school vibe to tournament MMA, so it's not surprising that not every fighter is a fan. But, at the same time, Sarnavskiy never won a Bellator tournament either, it could be that the new format will serve him better.