An awful lot can go wrong in promoting a mixed martial arts tournament, so alternate fighters are a necessity. With its heavyweight grand prix now underway, Bellator MMA has revealed its own.
Bellator’s bracket kicked off this past Saturday night with Bellator 192 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where Chael Sonnen outwrestled “Rampage” Quinton Jackson en route to a unanimous decision, advancing in the tournament. Following the event, Bellator CEO Scott Coker announced that the tournament would feature promotional mainstays Javy Ayala and Cheick Kongo in alternate roles.
“Cheick Kongo is someone we’re going to invite into the tournament and Javy Ayala, who had a really great fight with Roy Nelson," said Coker. “Both those heavyweights will be invited to come in and participate as alternates.”
Ayala, 29, has put together a 5-3 mark in the Bellator cage in his four-year tenure with the company. “Eye Candy” rocketed to prominence in November 2016 when he shocked Russian veteran Sergei Kharitonov by knock out in just 16 seconds. In his last outing at Bellator 183 this past September, Ayala dropped a unanimous decision to the aforementioned Nelson.
Kongo last saw action at Bellator 179 in May, taking a split decision over previously unbeaten Augusto Sakai. The 42-year-old is riding a five-fight winning streak in the promotion, having also taken decisions over Oli Thompson, Tony Johnson, Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz and Alexander Volkov.
Coker was keen to observe the importance alternates can play in tournaments, recalling the fact that the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix that he promoted in 2011-12 was won by current Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titlist Daniel Cormier, who replaced Alistair Overeem in the bracket.
“We have a couple of fighters that we are gonna invite in as our first round of alternates because, as you know, things can happen in the tournament,” said Coker. “The last tournament I threw, it was the third alternate that ended up winning the whole thing in great fashion.”