Bellator has announced nearly the entire field for their upcoming Welterweight Grand Prix tournament, a series of fights that will bring together 10 of the company’s top fighters over the course of several shows.
Nine of the 10 welterweights who will participate in the tournament have been revealed, including current champion Rory MacDonald (20-4).
Contenders, Veterans, and Prospects Make Up Field
The tournament features a number of welterweights who either already have star power, or are well-positioned to become stars should they score some marquee victories in the event.
Along with McDonald, two former champions – Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov – will also be in the field. Former UFC contenders Lorenz Larkin and Jon Fitch are also included, as well as four undefeated welterweights: Yaroslav Amosov, Neiman Gracie, Michael Page, and Ed Ruth.
That still leaves one spot open for the field. According to an ESPN.com report, that spot could potentially go to Paul Daley (40-16-2), who is currently in contract negotiations with Bellator. Daley has fought in the Bellator promotion since 2015.
Bellator president Scott Coker revealed the field during a streaming news conference on Tuesday. He also revealed a number of details that appear to be designed to make the tournament as intriguing as possible for fans.
Every fight in the tournament will use the five round championship format rather than the standard three rounds for non-title fights. This is related to the fact that MacDonald’s title will be taken into the tournament, meaning that the winner of the Grand Prix will ultimately walk away as the Bellator 170-pound champion.
No Strict Timeline for Tournament
With a 10-man field, two preliminary matches will be required in order to get the tournament down to the quarterfinal round. The first tournament matchup will take place on September 29 between Lima and Koreshkov. A bracket has yet to be released for the full tournament.
“This is truly the best welterweight division on the planet,” Coker said during the announcement. “We have the best fighters on the planet – better than any other league.”
The Grand Prix will likely take quite some time to complete. McDonald already has a scheduled fight on September 29, when he’ll face Gegard Mousasi for the Bellator middleweight championship. According to Coker, MacDonald will then fight in the Welterweight Grand Prix regardless of the outcome of the title bout. His first tournament fight could come in February 2019.
While the tournament does boast some exciting talent, independent experts might disagree with Coker’s assertion that Bellator has the best welterweight division in all of MMA. Only two of the Grand Prix participants – MacDonald and Lima – appear on Sherdog’s ranking of the top 10 welterweights in the world, which a third (Fitch) appearing as an honorable mention.
Bellator is no stranger to organizing championship tournaments. The promotion is currently in the middle of a Heavyweight World Grand Prix, which will determine the company’s heavyweight champion. That tournament is currently in the semifinal round.