Bellator is still home to "the toughest tournament in sports," but that tournament is getting a few adjustments.
According to Luke Thomas of MMAFighting.com, Bellator tournament winners will no longer have to re-enter a tournament in order to get a title shot. Tournament winners will still receive all the benefits ($100,000 check and a title shot) they previously enjoyed, but will now also join a group of fighters who can receive title shots without entering another tournament.
For example, Michael Chandler won't need to enter another lightweight tournament in order to get another crack at Eddie Alvarez or Will Brooks. Chandler can compete in a number of non-tournament fights against both tournament winners, and against guys who haven't won a tournament.
Exactly when these fighters receive their title fights will be up to Bellator's discretion.
This method of qualifying for a title shot only counts for those fighters who have previously won a Bellator tournament.
Bellator likely made this ruling due to the scrutiny they received after giving Chandler and Pat Curran immediate rematches rather than having those fighters enter another tournament. It gives the promotion a little more flexibility with their championship bouts as they are no longer saddled to tournament winners if another option comes up.
It's also a move that could lead to some major logjams in Bellator's divisions.
We've seen a few fighters win a tournament only to be injured prior to receiving a title shot. Take for example the case of Patricio Freire. After winning the Bellator Season 4 featherweight tournament at Bellator 47, Freire would injure his hand and be forced out of his scheduled title shot.
In response, Bellator held a "Summer Series" tournament that saw Curran earn a title shot. He successfully won the title and would go on to defend against Freire. But that wasn't until Bellator 85 in January 2013, nearly two years after Freire earned his title shot.
What happens when there are a number of tournament winners looking for their title shots but a more marketable fighter picks up a few wins? How does Bellator justify giving it to one guy over the other?
The move should allow the promotion to put on more "fan friendly" matchups as they continue to look into the pay-per-view side of MMA. But hopefully these match-ups don't lead to divisions being tied up.
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