Bellator will finally crown a new heavyweight champion.
More than three years after the last heavyweight title bout in the promotion history, Bellator has decided to stage an eight-man tournament in 2018 to give the division a new champion. MMA Fighting confirmed the news Friday following a report by MMA Junkie.
Former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko will join fellow MMA veterans Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione in the heavyweight tourney. Light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is also scheduled to compete in the tournament, alongside 205-pounders Quinton Jackson, Muhammed Lawal and Chael Sonnen.
Bellator is hoping to kick off the tournament on Jan. 20 and expects to crown a champion by the end of 2018, MMA Fighting has learned.
Emelianenko competed for the first time under the Bellator banner in June, losing to Mitrione via first-round knockout. That win boosted Mitrione’s Bellator record to 3-0 with a trio of knockouts.
Nelson recently scored a decision win over Javy Ayala in his Bellator debut, while Mir waits to be eligible to return to competition after serving a two-year USADA suspension. His suspension ends on April 7.
Bader won nine of his last 10 MMA fights, including victories over Phil Davis (twice), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ovince Saint Preux and Rashad Evans. He is 2-0 since joining Bellator in 2017.
Sonnen scored his first MMA win since 2013 when he beat longtime rival Wanderlei Silva via unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in June.
“Rampage” Jackson, who just signed a new multi-fight deal with Bellator, fought for the last time in a heavyweight bout with “King Mo” Lawal in March, losing a unanimous decision and snapping a five-fight winning streak.
Lawal has competed multiple times as a heavyweight over the past few years, defeating the likes of Satoshi Ishii and Cheick Kongo.