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Bellator’s New Tournament Rules Are Pretty Simple Until You Try to Explain Them


(Bjorn Rebney: The Art Jimmerson of MMA promoters.)

Bellator announced some changes to its title-contender structure today, and I’m going to do my best to summarize them in one sentence: Basically, if you win a Bellator tournament and receive a title shot, you no longer have to win another tournament in order to get another title shot. Which is weird, because didn’t they already kill that rule a long time ago? I mean, how else did Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler 2 and 3 get booked? I can think of several instances where Bellator’s vow that “title shots are earned, not given” hasn’t meant a whole lot.

So that’s the short version. Now read the press release that they actually sent out and get the Excedrin ready:

All Bellator Tournament Winners Now In World Title Shot Pool

Newport Beach, Calif. (June 12, 2014) – With Bellator’s 2014 Summer Series having just begun last Friday, Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney announced today that the promotion has made an addition to its real sport, tournament based* format that allows former Bellator Tournament winners the potential to be granted a World Title fight without going back into The Toughest Tournament in Sports.**

“Just like we’ve done since day one, any fighter who wins The Toughest Tournament in Sports will still be guaranteed a World Title*** fight,” Rebney said. “The addition I’m making here, that I’m really excited about, is if you’ve won a tournament, you’ll join an elite group of athletes who we can grant a world title fight to at any time.”

“For example, if you win a tournament, fight for the World Title and lose, you forever remain in that elite group of fighters who can be awarded another shot at the title. We will place some fighters back into tournaments, while others may lose a world title fight, win some non-tournament fights and be awarded another shot at the title.**** We won’t be implementing any hard and fast rule as to when a fighter will go back into a tournament and when he’ll fight non-tournament fights and potentially be granted another title shot. What’s great about this addition is that it allows us to stay true to our core format, where title shots can only be earned through a tournament win, while also providing us tremendous flexibility***** to make the great fights fans want to see. And, we can do all this while keeping our fighters busy and battling in meaningful fights on a re-occurring basis.****** This is another step in our constant evolution and most importantly it’s a win for the fighters and the fans.”

“When I heard about this change, I instantly fell in love with it,” Bellator Interim Lightweight Champion Will Brooks said.******* “This is a way to keep guys active after they have proven themselves in a tournament. You always want to stay in the mix as a fighter, and it’s really exciting to me that Bellator is taking the fighters and fans opinions to heart and making decisions to put on the best fights possible. It’s refreshing to see and be a part of, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

“At the end of the day, everyone wants to see guys they know stay busy and active,” Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima said.******** “As fighters we want to stay busy and keep fighting, and this new change helps keep the talent pool fresh and creates new challengers for us. I know the tournament isn’t going anywhere, it’s how we all came up and got our titles, but now we have a chance to keep staying busy and keep defending our titles.”

* I automatically hear the phrase “real sport, tournament based” in a Russian accent. See also: “I ready fight with light-heavyweight, no problem.”

** Pro tip: Capitalizing the words in something doesn’t necessarily make it accurate.

*** Ditto.

**** It is here that my head began to hurt.

***** “Flexibility” (n.), a euphemism referring to a fight-promoter’s ability to do whatever the fuck he wants at all times without having to justify it.

****** Okay, I actually have no problem with this part.

******* Poor, poor Will. Don’t you understand that they’re only doing this to set up Alvarez/Chandler again?

******** You ever have one of those moments where a fighter is described as a “Bellator Champion,” and you can’t remember how or when he won the title, or even the last time you saw him fight? That’s how I feel about Douglas Lima. Whatever happened to War Machine, anyway?

So that’s the official explanation of the new changes. Now here’s Luke Thomas from MMAFighting trying (and failing) to put this all in layman’s terms:

“For those fighters who’ve already won a tournament at any point in Bellator history, or for those who win any in the future, they move into a position where earning victories outside of the tournament structure enables them to claim a title shot at Bellator’s discretion. Those bouts can be against other fighters in Bellator who belong to this pool, but defeating only them is not essential. Fighters in this pool can face recent acquisitions, and should those previous tournament winners look impressive enough in victory, they can earn a title shot.

“In other words, Michael Chandler could face David Rickels in a non-tournament bout at lightweight as both fighters have won previous lightweight tournaments. However, Chandler or Ricklels could also face any acquisitions who have not competed in a Bellator tournament. If either Chandler or Rickels earn enough victories in this space against other fighters who have won Bellator tournaments or other non-tournament participants, they can earn a title shot without having to re-enter a tournament.

“The one caveat, however, is a fighter must win a tournament before they can enter this pool. Title shots can only be granted to those not actively in the tournament system, if and only if, they’ve already won a previous Bellator tournament.

“In addition, a previous winner of a Bellator tournament is not precluded from entering another tournament if they choose.”

My eyes are about to fall out of my head. The current pool of fighters eligible for title fights without having to win additional tournaments are as follows…

Bantamweight: Eduardo Dantas, Joe Warren, Marcos Galvao, Rafael Silva

Featherweight: Pat Curran, Patricio Pitbull, Daniel Straus, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, “Frodo” Khasbulaev, Daniel Weichel, Joe Warren.

Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez, Will Brooks, Michael Chandler, Pat Curran, Rick Hawn, Dave Jansen, David Rickels

Welterweight: Douglas Lima, Karl Amoussou, Andrey Koreshkov, Rick Hawn

Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko, Brennan Ward, Doug Marshall

Light Heavyweight: Emanuel Newton, Rampage Jackson, King Mo, Christian M’Pumbu, Atilla Vegh,

Heavyweight: Vitaly Minakov, Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo

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