Eric Larkin (top) | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bellator Fighting Championships today confirmed that its upcoming fourth season will feature an eight-man featherweight tournament, in which fighters will vie for $100,000 and a shot at current 145-pound champion Joe Warren.
Also announced was the first competitor in that featherweight field: 2003 NCAA Division I wrestling champion Eric Larkin.
Larkin, who won his national title at 149-pounds, is undefeated in his nascent MMA career. Following a pair of first-round stoppages on South Dakota cards last spring, the former Arizona State University Sun Devil made his successful Bellator debut at lightweight in September.
Larkin’s first-round submission of Marcus Andrusia made an impression on Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney, who quickly put Larkin’s name in the mix as a fourth-season tournament participant.
“I flipped when we finally got the paperwork done and signedÂ Eric Larkin,” Rebney told Sherdog.com in October. “He’s just a freak. I love what Ben Askren has been able to do in terms of taking his wrestling skill and applying it to his MMA game, but Larkin is just another kind of beast.”
For the tournament, Larkin will drop to 145 pounds for the first time in his fighting career, a shift which he says should have some major upside.
“The major benefits I’m going to get from dropping down to 145 are primarily going to be strength and leverage,” Larkin said in a press release. “I definitely feel like I’m going to be stronger at 145 than I would be at 155. At lightweight, there are guys cutting down from 180 and 190 to make the weight and I’m not even close to that. I think this cut to featherweight is going to be great for me.”
While Bellator has yet to confirm any additional fighters for the featherweight bracket, several names have been rumored in recent weeks. Season two featherweight runner-up Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is expected to return, along with semi-finalist Georgi Karakhanyan. Unbeaten prospect Nazareno Malegarie has reportedly inked a deal with the promotion, as have Team Bombsquad product Kenny Foster and Oklahoman Zac George. In October, Rebney also mentioned the potential return of two-time tournament participant Wilson Reis.
No formal start date has been announced for Bellator’s fourth season, which begins in March and will air on MTV2.