2021 is opening with some big moves for one of the world’s largest MMA orgs. Bellator took a lot longer to get things going during the COVID-19 pandemic than the UFC, but still finished the year with 18 cards and a pair of newly crowned champions. While the promotion won’t put on their first show of 2021 until April, the year looks like it should be a memorable one for the Viacom-owned company.
In a media call on Tuesday, February 9th, the promotion made its upcoming plans crystal clear. To start things off, Bellator is leaving the CBS Sports for the former home of Elite XC and Strikeforce, fellow ViacomCBS network Showtime. Bellator moved from the Paramount Network over to CBS Sports last year, breaking from their longtime home on the Paramount Network/SpikeTV. Showtime has a long history with combat sports, hosting regular boxing cards along with their past MMA partnerships.
Along with the move to a new broadcast home, Bellator will kick off their 2021 calendar of events with a top tier 8-man light heavyweight tournament. The brackets will feature recently crowned champion Vadim Nemkov, defending his belt against former foe Phil Davis, as well as former champ Ryan Bader taking on former UFC LHW king Lyoto Machida—in a rematch of their 2012 bout in the Octagon.
However, the real jewel in the crown for the Grand Prix opening round will be a battle between former UFC title challengers Yoel Romero and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. The bout will be Romero’s first since coming to a mutual agreement with the UFC to release him from his contract. The ‘Soldier of God’ last fought Israel Adesanya at UFC 248 in March of 2020.
For Johnson, this fight will be his first pro striking fight of any kind since April of 2017, when he challenged Daniel Cormier for the UFC light heavyweight strap. Johnson retired from MMA after the loss, but has been a constant source of conversation from fans wondering when or if he might return to competition. A bout between Corey Anderson and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov will round out the brackets.
The first leg of Bellator’s LHW tournament is set to start on April 9th, with Bader vs. Machida & Anderson vs. Yagshimuradov. The remaining two opening round bouts will take place the next week, on April 16th, with Romero vs. Johnson and Nemkov vs. Davis. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and notes as the fight cards approach.
Interesting!!! I like it. pic.twitter.com/dCWAK1vU8G
— Alex Behunin (@AlexBehunin) February 9, 2021
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