Bellator MMA took to ESPN Sports Center to announce the first round of their Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 Heavyweight Tournament.
The first match-up is set for January 20th at the Forum in Inglewood, California, with former UFC title challenger, media personality Chael Sonnen against former Pride & UFC champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Sonnen is coming off a submission loss to Tito Ortiz, while Jackson is coming off a decision loss to “King Mo”.
The winner of Sonnen vs. Rampage will meet the winner of a contest scheduled for April bout at the AllSate Arena, in Illinois, between former Pride champion Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emlianenko & former 2x UFC champion Frank Mir. In his promotional debut at Bellator NYC, Emlianenko was stopped by Matt Mitrione, while Mir returns to action after a 2 year USADA suspension, looking to end a 2 fight skid.
The 2nd first round match-up is set for February 16th, at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut with Matt “Meathead” Mitrione looking to avenge his TKO loss to Roy “Big Country” Nelson from over 5 years ago. Mitrione won his 3rd in a row at Bellator NYC, while Nelson is coming of a successful promotional debut unanimous decision win over Javy Ayala.
The Mitrione vs. Nelson winner will tangle with the winner of Ryan Bader vs. Muhammed “King MO” Lawal, which is happening in May at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. These two had been scheduled to meet at Bellator 180, but Lawal withdrew due to injury, Bader instead took a decision and the Light Heavyweight title from Phil Davis. Bader is coming off a successful defense of his title stopping Linton Vassell, while Lawal last fought at Bellator 175 taking a decision win over “Rampage”.