The latter rounds of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix are taking shape.
On Saturday, Fedor Emelianenko knocked out Frank Mir in 48 seconds at Bellator 198 in Rosemont, Ill., to advance to the tournament semifinals. There, he will face Chael Sonnen in what is likely to be one of the biggest money-making fights in Bellator history.
On the other side of the bracket, Matt Mitrione is in the semis following his win over Roy Nelson. He’ll take on the winner of a fight between Ryan Bader and Muhammed Lawal, which headlines Bellator 199 on May 12 in San Jose, Calif.
Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Fighting on Thursday that a lot of future tourney planning will depend on the outcome of Bader vs. “King Mo.” But the current timeframe for the semifinal round of the grand prix would be in late August or September.
The two semifinal matchups could be on different nights, Coker said, though nothing is finalized. If so, the two cards headlined by the semifinal fights would be on adjacent weekends.
“If it’s not on the same night, we will make sure that it’s close in proximity of time,” Coker said. “Because we want to make sure both fighters have the same amount of rest time. For instance, if we go on a date on a Saturday, if it’s not both on the same card, the following Saturday we might have the other semifinal. Just to make sure there’s not this disparity of one fighter had three months to rest and one fighter had two months to rest. We want to make it as fair as we can.”
Bellator is still targeting the final of the tournament to be near the end of this year or the beginning of 2019.
The location of where the semifinal fights will be have yet to be determined, Coker said. But Bellator is already in contact with multiple venues. At this point, big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are the frontrunners. Coker said he’d like to have the fights in New York or LA (or both), but because Emelianenko vs. Mir drew so well in the Chicago area — the second-biggest gate in Bellator history — Emelianenko vs. Sonnen might go right back there.
“We’re talking to several venues around the country,” Coker said. “I think it makes a lot of sense to have those fights either on the East Coast or the West Coast. ... Maybe we take that Fedor fight back to Chicago, because man they really love him there.”
Coker said he believes the tournament has really begun taking shape and Bellator is “on a roll” right now. The Sonnen vs. Emelianenko bout, he said, will be a significant draw. Emelianenko vs. Mir averaged 1.5 million viewers on Paramount Network during that bout, factoring in DVR viewing. Fedor vs. Chael will probably do even better.
“I think it’s gonna be a big event for us, a big event for the company,” Coker said. “I think it’s gonna be another fight where we’ll deliver great ratings, great digital numbers. I think it’s gonna be a big piece of business for us.”
Could it be the biggest Bellator event ever? Coker is leaving open that possibility.
“Could be,” he said. “It could be. I wish Fedor was here training and living in the states and we could have access to him more. But Chael, he can promote unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. And he loves it. So, we’re gonna give him every opportunity to let him have a mic whenever he wants and we’re gonna pump this fight really hard.”