Usman Nurmagomedov has been Bellator lightweight champion for less than two months, and already he is being asked to run a gantlet of challengers.
Bellator MMA announced Wednesday that it will launch a Lightweight World Grand Prix in March, with Nurmagomedov defending his title as part of an eight-fighter field that includes former lightweight champion Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, former featherweight champ AJ McKee, former UFC lightweight titlist Benson Henderson and former Rizin lightweight belt holder Tofiq Musayev. The other contestants will be Alexander Shabliy, Sidney Outlaw and Mansour Barnaoui.
“It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be a really fantastic tournament,” Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said on “The MMA Hour.” “It’s something we promised the fans, and if you look at our lightweight division, it’s really stacked. Excited for those guys to all get it on.”
Coker announced on the show that the grand prix will begin at Bellator 292 on March 10 in San Jose, California. Bellator also announced that Nurmagomedov will defend his title against Henderson in the main event and that Musayev and Shabliy will meet in the night’s other tournament quarterfinal. All fights in the grand prix will be five rounds.
The 155-pound division will be the sixth weight class featured in a Bellator World Grand Prix with $1 million awarded to the winner. The ongoing tournament at bantamweight will conclude this year with a finals matchup between interim champ Raufeon Stots and Patchy Mix, with the winner earning a shot at injured champion Sergio Pettis.