Opening Round Matchups Set for Bellator MMA’s Heavyweight Tournament

By Tristen Critchfield Nov 22, 2017


The first-round pairings for Bellator MMA’s World Grand Prix 2018 are official.

The matchups were announced during ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday night: Quinton Jackson vs. Chael Sonnen; Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir; Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson and Ryan Bader vs. Muhammed Lawal.



“Rampage” and Sonnen will kick off the bracket when they lock horns at Bellator 192 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 20. Mitrione and Nelson will clash at an event slated for Feb. 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Emelianenko vs. Mir will take place in April at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., while Bader vs. Lawal is set for May at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

The Jackson-Sonnen winner will face the Emelianenko-Mir winner in one semifinal, while the Bader-Lawal winner will meet the Mitrione-Nelson winner in the other semifinal.

While the promotion has not officially named tournament alternates, Bellator President Scott Coker told ESPN.com that Bobby Lashley, Cheick Kongo, Javy Ayala, Justin Wren, Sergei Kharitonov and Shane Carwin are being seriously considered for those spots.

The tournament will take place over the course of seven events throughout 2018, with the winner earning the promotion’s vacant heavyweight championship. The title has been vacant since May 2016, when Bellator stripped then titlist Vitaly Minakov for inactivity. There has not been a heavyweight title bout in Bellator since April 2014, when Minakov took a five-round verdict over Cheick Kongo.

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