Bellator's show will go on next Saturday. And it will remain on pay-per-view.
On a Saturday media teleconference, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney announced that Will Brooks would step in and face Chandler in a five-round interim lightweight title fight at Bellator 120 in Southaven, Miss.
"Obviousy I am disappointed," said Rebney. "We're not going to see the trilogy finalized right now. We still have a huge card."
This marked the second time in as many attempts that Bellator had a main event fall out for a planned pay-per-view event. Last fall, Tito Ortiz suffered a neck injury in training and had to pull out of his fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, which led to Bellator 106 being moved off pay-per-view and instead placed on Spike TV.
This time, though, the event will remain on pay-per-view. Rebney defended the decision, saying a card featuring Chandler-Brooks, Jackson vs. King Mo Lawal in a light heavyweight tourney final and Ortiz vs. Alexander Shlemenko was a solid value.
"There was never a hesitation to keep this level of a main event on pay-per-view," Rebney said. "We had an utterly spectacular show and now we have a spectacular show. I couldn't be happier about it and it's staying right where it is."
With Brooks' planned fight with Nate Jolly scratched from the main card, Rebney stated the heavyweight tournament final between Blagoy Ivanov and Alexander Volkov would be bumped up to the main card. The company has not yet decided which bout would fill the latter's previous spot on the Spike TV prelims.
Rebney laid out the timeline under which the decision was made to pull Alvarez from the card. Rebney said he was informed late last week about Alvarez's injury, and was updated on the situation until it became clear the champ could no longer go.
"Late last week, we received a call from Ed's manager explaining that Ed has hit his head on a training partner's hip, and he was experiencing some dizziness during training," Rebney said. "We were then told we would be receiving daily updates, but that the situation was improving. ... Yesterday, on Friday, we were told he had made no further progress beyond 70 percent. He was still doing full cardio training and he was questioning whether he could fight on the pay-per-view."
On Friday, a Bellator official flew to Florida to meet with Alvarez, and Saturday morning, Alvarez's withdrawal was made official.
Rebney said given the seriousness of head injury issues, the company would give Alvarez as much time as he needs to recover.
"With some fighters [concussion symptoms] last 8-9 months, some fighters it lasts three weeks," Rebney said. "It's very difficult to tell, and the last place in the entire realm of injury where you want to do any guess work is the brain. You always want to defer much longer than you go shorter, where you can push through with knees or shoulders or whatever if you have to, you can't do that with the brain."
For Brooks (13-1), the fight is his opportunity to make his name in the sport. The American Top Team fighter from Chicago has won four in a row, most recently a decision win over Alexander Sarnavskiy at Bellator 109, which was the finals of the season nine lightweight tourney.
When a reporter asked Rebney a question about the fight remaining on pay-per-view, Brooks responded with an out-of-left-field rant.
"If you think about it, what the UFC do with all their PPVs and they're charging you more money, $50something, $60something for the fights," Brooks said. "Once in a while, a lot of time recently the PPV cards are watered down, not what they're supposed to be. Now people are asking questions, ‘Why is Bellator still selling a PPV for 30 bucks here,' I don't know exactly how much the price goes, but when you ask that question, all that makes you sound like is a cheap ass. ... If you have such a question about the fighters on the card, why are you even paying attention? If you watch you watch, if you don't you're a damn fool."
Chandler (12-1), for his part, handled his business in a professional manner, wishing Alvarez well and adapting to the new fight.
"With what we do in this sport every day, there's always that chance for injury and there's always the chance your opponent can pull out, whether eight weeks before the fight or eight hours before the fight," Chandler said. "You never expect it to happen, but it's in the back of your mind. ... I wish Eddie the best. Obviously with concussions and all that kind of stuff it's serious stuff. It's not a sprained ankle. We all can relate to that to a certain degree. I'm just focused on the task at hand, I've had a great training camp and Will will be a tough test."
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