Bellator: It’s where title shots are earned, not given.
Unlike in the UFC where title shots are arbitrarily given, in Bellator, you have to win a tournament to earn a title shot. At least that used to be the policy, until Bellator decided it wasn’t good business.
Eddie Alvarez will be the first fighter in Bellator history to receive a title shot without having previously won a tournament when he rematches Michael Chandler at Bellator 106. You won’t see me faulting Bellator for this though. Alvarez is a great fighter, and deserves the fight more than anyone else on Bellator’s roster. Plus, this is nothing compared to the mess of Bellator’s “superfights”, wherein Bellator champions would face completely undeserving opponents for what were supposed to be easy wins. Marcos Galvao’s robbery loss to Joe Warren, and Travis Wiuff defeating Christian M’Pumbu thankfully put an end to that circus.
Okay, so I really don’t mind that Bellator is completely turning around on their flagship policy of what made them different as an organization (other than hosting defined tournaments.) I actually think it’s the right move. But this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mess that is Bellator 106.
If nothing else, Bellator has done an incredible job over the last few years of building its own great fighters. Michael Chandler. Eddie Alvarez. Pat Curran. Ben Askren. Eduardo Dantas. And yet rather than let these fighters headline in their inaugural pay per view event, Bellator made the untenable decision of picking two UFC washouts to headline. Unbelievable.
Thankfully, good fortune intervened. With Tito Ortiz’ injury, the pay per view has been cancelled, and the event moved to SpikeTV. Not only will casual fans be spared from this irrelevant fight, Bellator will have been spared from an almost certain pay per view bomb.
And then there’s Atilla Vegh.
The light heavyweight division has never been marquee for Bellator. They never pushed Christian M’Pumbu as their champion, and they haven’t done much of a better job promoting Atilla Vegh. Enter Muhammad Lawal.
Lawal was supposed to cruise through his tournament, easily defeat Vegh for the title, and Lawal and Bellator President Bjorn Rebney were going to drink champagne in a limousine together.
Instead, Lawal was shockingly knocked out by Emanuel Newton in the semifinals, and Newton went on to win the tournament. Fans expected Bellator to announce Vegh vs Newton 2. Instead, Bellator announced that Vegh was injured, and set Newton vs Lawal 2 for the interim title. The problem? Vegh was never injured. Bellator even went on to announce Vegh as the reserve fighter in case one of them got injured. Complete nonsense.
Thankfully, despite all this mess, Bellator 106 is almost certain to be a great event. Curran is a great champion, and there’s no possible way Lawal vs Newton or Chandler vs Alvarez can disappoint. But it’s still been a total mess.