During season one, the former NCAA All-American wrestler submitted Daniel Tabera and stopped Yosmany Cabezas in the tournament but fell short in the finals to current champion Hector Lombard due to a fourth-round cut stoppage.
This year, the goal for Hess (10-1-1) will be to beat three opponents from April through June to secure a title shot rematch in September against Lombard.
"I'm looking forward to winning the tournament and getting a chance to face Hector again," Hess said. "I think it would be a much different outcome this time. My standup has improved by leaps and bounds since then. Add that to my wrestling and I think I'd have a distinct edge this time."
Bellator also announced on Thursday the addition of Sean Loeffler (18-4) to the middleweight tournament. Three more names are to be announced.