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Bellator releases lightweight champ Will Brooks, strips Vitaly Minakov of heavyweight title

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator MMA has made a couple of key changes to their championship lineup. Will Brooks, previously the reigning Bellator lightweight champion, has been released by the organization while Vitaly Minakov was stripped of his heavyweight crown. MMA Junkie was the first to report the news. MMA Fighting confirmed it with Bellator officials.

"It was very simple," Coker reportedly told MMA Junkie. "Will Brooks' contract is ending, and we made a decision not to renew it. We're going to give him a full release, so we're not going to be in the Will Brooks business any longer."

Brooks, 29, told MMA Fighting his contract with the organization was set to expire on July 15th and he intended to pursue free agency.

The American Top Team lightweight enters the open market with a 17-1 professional record in MMA. He was the season 9 lightweight tournament winner and captured the interim lightweight title against Michael Chandler in May of 2014 at Bellator 120. He won the vacant lightweight title also against Chandler at Bellator 131 in November of that year. Brooks defended his title twice, most recently against Marcin Held at Bellator 145 in November of 2015.

According to Coker, Minakov will remain within the company for the time being, but has been stripped of his heavyweight title due to inactivity. Minakov, 31, remains undefeated at 17-0, but hasn't fought for Bellator since defending his title for the first and only time, doing so at Bellator 115 in April of 2014. Since then, he's competed three times for the Fight Nights promotion in cities across Russia.

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