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Bellator officially announces 16-man featherweight grand prix, launching in October

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Featherweight has long been one of Bellator’s most stacked divisions. And now it will get the annual tournament treatment.

Bellator president Scott Coker announced officially Tuesday at a London press conference that the promotion will launch a featherweight grand prix in October. The tournament will feature 16 of the best 145-pound fighters in Bellator, the biggest tourney to date in promotion history.

Bellator London Press Conference

Bellator London Press Conference

Posted by Bellator MMA on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Coker had previously teased the news, but made it official Tuesday at a press conference to announce the slate for Bellator 222 in London on June 22. Coker said the featherweight tournament will begin sometime in October with the full first round — eight fights — on a single card. It will air on DAZN. The plan, he said, is to finish up the grand prix within a calendar year.

The tournament winner will receive $1 million, Coker said. It’s unclear if the Bellator featherweight champion, currently Patricio Freire, will be in the draw. Freire is moving up to lightweight to fight champion Michael Chandler in the main event of Bellator 221 on May 11 in Rosemont, Ill.

Bellator was once a promotion entirely based on tournaments with the winners in each weight class getting title shots. When Coker took over as promoter from founder Bjorn Rebney in 2014, Bellator moved away from the full tournament structure. But in 2018, tournaments once again became part of the format, beginning with the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix, which was won by Ryan Bader — who also became heavyweight champion — in January.

Currently, Bellator is running a welterweight grand prix with champion Rory MacDonald defending his title throughout the bracket. MacDonald will face Jon Fitch in a first-round matchup at Bellator 220 on April 27 in San Jose, Calif. Douglas Lima, Michael Page and Neiman Gracie are already in the tourney semifinals.

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