Since the creation of Bellator Fighting Championships, the fight promotion's CEO Bjorn Rebney has held steadfast to the tournament format. A title shot, its motto says, is "earned, not given." But as the organization inches towards a larger platform on Spike, modifications are being made to better prepare for the impending battle with the UFC. And on Monday, that manifested itself with a slight alteration to its longtime philosophy as Rebney announced that they would allow championship fight rematches.
"When a fighter’s earned a shot at the world title by winning The Toughest Tournament in Sports and competes in a title fight that knocks fans like us back in our seats (win or lose) delivering an incredible fight, when a rematch is called for, we will deliver it," Rebney wrote on an open letter to fans posted on the company website. "Championship fights give us some of the greatest moments in MMA. And, re-matches of incredible championship fights will give fans like us more of those electrifying moments, while staying true to the world’s best fighters having had to earn their way to those title shots."
Until now, rematches have never been possible, and title fight losers have had to weave their way through another tournament field to get another shot at gold.
The change should better position the promotion to offer more intriguing match-ups as well as retain champions who lose a belt and either enter or near free agency.
For example, after losing his belt, former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez publicly stated that only a rematch with current belt-holder Michael Chandler would make sense, and that he couldn't see himself re-entering the grinding tournament format to get that shot. He's gone on to fight twice, bringing him to free agency, where he is currently entertaining offers.
Rebney had previously said that Alvarez would have to fight through a tournament to again face Chandler, but his reversal of position should open the door for a rematch, another bargaining chip as they try to lure Alvarez back into the fold.
It should also help with ratings as it will allow the promotion to deliver more recognizable names as fans familiarize themselves with champions as well as tournament finalists.