Bellator MMA will host an eight-man heavyweight tournament in 2018, with the eventual winner claiming the promotion’s vacant heavyweight championship.
Officials confirmed the plans to ESPN on Friday, following an initial report by USA Today. The tournament, dubbed Bellator MMA World Grand Prix, will unfold over the course of 2018, with the finals hopefully taking place prior to the end of the year.
The field features several of the promotion’s biggest names: Fedor Emelianenko, Chael Sonnen, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and current light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.
Bellator has not yet announced the tournament bracket but is expected to in the coming months.
Emelianenko (36-5) is the most decorated of the field. The 41-year-old Russian was once widely considered the best fighter in the world. He made his Bellator debut earlier this year, a knockout loss to Mitrione in Bellator’s pay-per-view event in June.
Jackson (37-12) and Mir (18-11) are both former UFC champions. Sonnen (29-15-1) is a former three-time, multidivisional title challenger in the UFC.
Bellator has dropped hints regarding a potential heavyweight tournament all year. The heavyweight championship has been vacant since May 2016.
It’s not the first time Bellator president Scott Coker has hosted a heavyweight Grand Prix. Coker hosted an eight-man tournament under the Strikeforce banner between 2011 and 2012. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier defeated Josh Barnett via unanimous decision in the tournament finals in May 2012.