Justin Wren plans to fight more frequently, wants Bellator grand prix alternate spot

Add Justin Wren to the list of fighters who wants to be added to the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix 2018 as an alternate.

Despite an unbeaten Bellator record, Wren (13-2 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) did not make the eight-man tournament field to determine who claims the vacant heavyweight championship. He was clamoring for a position, but Bellator opted to insert its biggest names from both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions.

Wren said he would have liked to participate and hopes an opportunity will still come up. But if it doesn’t, he said on the “JRE MMA Show” podcast that he expects to be fighting for the title sooner than later, anyway.

“If I’m not in there as an alternate I think I’ll be in there for one of the first title defenses,” Wren told host and UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “I think that’s where I’ll be. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Wren said he understands why Bellator didn’t give him an initial tournament spot. The list of names in the bracket are well known in the sport, and although “The Big Pygmy” is a fan favorite, he’s not a draw on the level of a Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Fedor Emelianenko, or even Ryan Bader.

Moreover, Wren has only competed once per year since 2015 when he returned to MMA competition from a more than five-year hiatus. Inactivity keeps Wren from certain opportunities, but he hopes that changes by being busier in 2018.

“I’m going to stay active,” Wren said. “I’m going to fight. Hopefully I can kick it up to two, three fights a year.”

For more on the Bellator schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Odds for Bellator's grand prix are out, but oddsmakers might need to get more creative

All the potential craziness that could come from the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018, and somehow the biggest favorite in the opening round is the guy who got knocked out the last time he faced this particular foe.

That’s the story told by the betting odds, anyway. According to The Oddessa Line, Matt Mitrione is a -260 favorite to beat Roy Nelson (a +180 underdog) in the first round of the tournament on Feb. 16 at Bellator 194.

You might recall that these two fought once already in the UFC back in 2012, and Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) handed Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) the first knockout loss of his career.

But oh, how times have changed. In fact, that might as well be the tagline for the entire tournament, especially since we now find ourselves in a heavyweight tournament populated by a several guys who have never even competed at heavyweight, and still somehow it’s former PRIDE great Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) who ends up being one of the heavier underdogs – against Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) – to make it out of the first round.

Some of that, of course, is the matchmaking. Bellator seems to have decided to mostly keep heavyweights with heavyweights and light heavyweights with light heavyweights in the opening round.

Odds have Mir as a sizable favorite over Emelianenko, while longtime “moneyweight” Muhammad Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) starts as a sizable underdog against current Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA).

The most competitive fight, at least according to the odds, is the exact fight that Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) said he didn’t want – the one against takedown enthusiast and former UFC middleweight (!!!) contender Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) at Bellator 192. In that one, both men are at -120, presumably to balance the likelihood of an overweight and out-of-shape Jackson being taken down repeatedly with the chances of Sonnen eating one solid punch and going down.

But in order to really have the right kind of fun with this tournament, we’re thinking that oddsmakers will need to get creative with prop bets.

For instance, can we get some odds on who’ll be the first to withdraw from the tournament due to injury/illness/arrest/sudden retirement? How about a line on Tito Ortiz as an alternate to come in and win it all? And if you can’t bet on whether one of these fighters will lose, then get re-added to the tournament later and lose again, what is even the point?

Just saying.

For more on Bellator 192, Bellator 194 and and rest of the promotion’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Check out the Bellator grand prix trailer, where Fedor Emelianenko has a chuckle

Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News

Dann StuppAs the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 approaches, we now have a trailer for the eight-man heavyweight tournament.

As previously reported, the multi-event and yearlong grand prix kicks off in January, and four veteran heavyweights and four light heavyweights are part of the field.

Things kick off at Bellator 192, which takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. An opening-round matchup of Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) vs. Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) is part of the Spike-televised main card. The winner meets the victor of Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) vs. Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), which is slated for April in Chicago.

At Bellator 194 on Feb. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) takes on Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). The winner meets either Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) or Muhammad Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA), who are slotted to fight in San Jose in May.

Here’s the bracket:

Officials dates and locations haven’t been set for the semifinal round or the tourney final.

Check out the trailer, which includes a chuckle from the usually straight-faced Emelianenko, above.

And for more on Bellator 192, Bellator 194 and and rest of the promotion’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

205 champ Ryan Bader excited for Bellator heavyweight tourney, not concerned by rest of field

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Filed under: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, Videos

First, a title-winning display at the iconic Madison Square Garden. Then, a successful defense on a headlining affair. Now, the chance to become a two-division champion.

Looking at Ryan Bader’s past six months, one can see why he has “no regret whatsoever” about his decision to join Bellator’s roster after a 20-fight stint under the UFC banner.

“I’m totally happy with my decision,” Bader told MMAjunkie Radio last week. “Go out, win the belt, defend it, and then get offered to go in a heavyweight tournament? It doesn’t get, really, much better than that. I came over here for those unique opportunities, you know. And they brought it up to me – I didn’t have to go searching for (them).

“When I first met with them, they were like, ‘Would you be willing to fight in Japan? Would you be willing to go to heavyweight?’ I said yes to all of that. ‘Give me those opportunities.’ So when it presented itself to be in this tournament, we said, ‘Hell yeah, why not? Let’s do it.’”

By “this tournament,” Bader means Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix – which will determine who’ll take the promotion’s vacant heavyweight throne. According to the recently-revealed bracket, it kicks off on Jan. 20 with Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The idea is to have a champ crowned by December 2018.

Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), who’s coming off a TKO win over Linton Vassell at Bellator 186, wasn’t yet aware of how the tournament was going to go by the time he checked in with MMAjunkie Radio. He, in fact, didn’t even know he was going to get his post-fight wish granted with a May booking vs. Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) .

But not really knowing what will happen is not that big of a problem when you, simply put, don’t really care.

“I can make the case for fighting anyone of those guys would be awesome,” Bader said. “It’s one of those stacked tournaments where you look at one paper and you’re like, ‘Man, there’s some big names in here. Big guys.’ But there’s not a guy in there that I’m like, ‘Oh man, he may be too big.’ Or (that) I’m concerned about. I’m going in there to win that thing. So it really doesn’t matter to me.

“It’s kind of breaking it down like I used to do it in the old wrestling das, when you’re going to a national tournament and there’s 64 men in your bracket. You look at it and it’s pretty daunting, but you just go out there and you wrestle one match at a time.

“Same with fighting: You go out there, fight your fight. You win three in a row and you’re the heavyweight champion.”

According to the grand prix’s initial layout, a win over Lawal would put Bader against either Roy Nelson or Matt Mitrione – who are set to meet on Feb. 16 – in the semifinals. That would mean, if Fedor Emelianenko gets past Frank Mir and then the winner of Sonnen vs. “Rampage” Jackson, a Bader vs. Emelianenko final.

For many, a chance to fight “The Last Emperor” is certainly something to be celebrated. After all, while Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) is coming off a loss to Mitrione in his Bellator debut, we are talking about a longtime PRIDE champion who’s still generally regarded as the best heavyweight in MMA history.

Bader is certainly part of that group. Which, of course, is not to say that he’s in any way letting the legend get in his path.

“Before Fedor is done, it’d be an honor to get in the cage with him,” Bader said. “And it’s just one of those things, where it’s nothing but respect. For me, I was watching a lot of the wrestlers coming up, because I was wrestling at (Arizona State University) and watching Fedor just tearing people apart like a buzzsaw over in PRIDE, (he’s) definitely one of my favorite fighters.

“To be able to share that cage with him and those guys that are on my record, it’s pretty surreal. I don’t really take the time to look back and reminisce on that, and there will be a time for that, but now is time to go forward. To fight him would be a great honor but, make no mistake about it, I’m trying to run through him.”

For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumorssection of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go towww.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Filed under: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Why 'big-game hunter' Frank Mir wanted Fedor Emelianenko in Bellator grand prix

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC

Even before he officially got the matchup, Frank Mir knew he wanted a fight with Fedor Emelianenko.

The way Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, sees it, former longtime PRIDE titleholder Emelianenko is the biggest name in the eight-man field of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.

MMAjunkie first reported plans for the multi-event tournament, which kicks off in January, this past week. And on Wednesday, officials formally confirmed the opening-round pairings, which include Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) vs. Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in the same bracket as Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) vs. Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA).

Mir vs. Emelianenko is tentatively slotted for April.

“It’s like being a big-game hunter,” Mir, 38, told MMAjunkie Radio prior to the unveiling of the opening-round pairing. “I don’t want to go out there and shoot a little quail. You want to take out the biggest and the baddest.”

Mir will make his promotional debut as part of the fight with Emelianenko. The longtime UFC heavyweight was granted his release from the promotion in July while serving a suspension for a failed drug test (he’s denied taking any performance-enhancing drugs).

During his time off, Mir has kept busy with his podcast, “Phone Booth Fighting” (with Richard Hunter), and commentating duties for the Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) promotion.

“I’ve seen so much more now, because I’ve watched so many countless hours of video of two guys fighting, actually breaking it down analytically.” said Mir, who suffered losses to Andrei Arlovski and Mark Hunt in the final of 27 career UFC fights (one shy of Michael Bisping’s current record). ” … My mind has advanced even more so.”

As for the possibility of fighting three times to claim the Bellator grand-prix crown and the vacant heavyweight belt, Mir, who hasn’t been in the cage since March 2016, said he likes having a fight schedule again.

“It’s nice to be a fighter again,” he said. “A little bit of limbo was the last year-and-a-half, not having a fight scheduled and not being able to participate. I finally get to fight again. It’s something that, when you don’t get to do what you love, it makes it even worse.”

For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator heavyweight grand prix opening-round matchups set; 'Rampage'-Sonnen first up Jan. 20

The bracket is set for the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.

The four opening-round matchups for the eight-man tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion were announced tonight on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

They are as follows:

The Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) vs. Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) winner will face the winner of Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) vs. Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in one semifinal.

In the other semifinal, the winner of Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) vs. Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) will face the Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) vs. Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) winner.

“Rampage”-Sonnen will kick things off at Bellator 192, which takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Mitrione-Nelson is slated for a Bellator event scheduled Feb. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Fedor-Mir and Bader-King Mo are scheduled for April and May events, respectively.

Bellator has yet to determine any alternates for the tournament, though president Scott Coker told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto the promotion is considering several names, including Shane Carwin, Cheick Kongo and Bobby Lashley.

Bellator’s heavyweight championship has been vacant since May 2016, when the promotion stripped then-champ Vitaly Minakov of the belt for failing to defend the title.

The tentative plan is to hold the title fight in December.

For more on Bellator 192 and Bellator’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Why Matt Mitrione was initially bummed by Bellator heavyweight grand prix

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Radio Highlight

He’s the odds-on favorite to win the thing, but Matt Mitrione initially wasn’t very excited about Bellator’s upcoming heavyweight tournament.

As recently announced, the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 will kick off in early 2018, with eight fighters – four heavyweights and four light heavyweights – fighting for the organization’s vacant heavyweight title.

Mitrione is a 2-1 (+200) favorite to win the grand prix and has the best odds to merge victorious at the end. So, why was he initially bummed when officials approached him about the tourney, which will be held throughout the year over multiple events?

“I’m not good at giving political answers, so I’ll give you an honest answer: I wasn’t really excited, to be honest,” Mitrione told MMAjunkie Rado. ” … I think it would have been a true heavyweight grand prix to fill it with heavyweights. I think it would have been even better to do it in the same night. I think that would have been a lot of fun.

“But that’s not how it went. I think they chose the most athletic, most exciting guys they have, and I think that’s what the draw of the tournament is.”

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) is coming off a signature career victory – over famed heavyweight, former PRIDE champion and fellow Bellator tourney participant Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA). Mitrione, an NFL and UFC vet, thought it might’ve given him a fast-track for a shot at the vacant Bellator heavyweight belt.

“I would have originally wanted just a title fight, and then have the winner of the tournament fight me for the title – and I would defend it hopefully once during the middle of the year,” he said.

Instead, he’ll need at least three victories to win the tourney and claim the belt. Currently, the sports books (and MMAjunkie readers) feel he’s the favorite to do so.

Does he think those odds are right?

“Yeah, I think I expected it, to be honest,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best heavyweight Bellator has to offer, and I say rather readily that on any given day, I’m the best heavyweight in the world. I had just a couple of missteps (during my UFC career), and it cost me a pretty substantial amount in my name value, but I feel like when it comes down to scrapping, I’m one of the best in the world. So I’m not surprised I’m the favorite.

“Then again, in that same breath, we have three light heavyweights and a bloated middleweight. If it was a full-fledged heavyweight grand prix or heavyweight tournament, then I think it might possibly be a little different.”

Mitrione specifically mentioned Cheick Kongo (27-10-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) and Sergei Kharitonov (26-6 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) as true heavyweights he would’ve liked to see in the field.

However, those three light heavyweights – reigning 205-pound champ Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), former UFC titleholder Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) and ex-Strikeforce champ Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA), as well the “bloated middleweight,” multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) – add an interesting wrinkle to the grand-prix field, he said.

“I think the smaller bodies make it a much more interesting tournament, for sure,” Mitrione said.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Radio Highlight
Source: MMA Junkie

'King Mo': I'm a problem for anyone in Bellator heavyweight grand prix

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Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Bellator’s eight-man grand prix next year to decide a new heavyweight champion is the inclusion of four fighters who aren’t true heavyweights.

And of those four, perhaps nobody faces a size disadvantage quite like Muhammed Lawal.

At 5-foot-11 and a little more than 200 pounds, he’s small in comparison to the true heavyweights in the field. Could you imagine seeing “King Mo” vs. Roy Nelson, for instance?

Granted, Lawal has experience fighting in openweight tournaments in Japan and has the occasional heavyweight bout to his credit. That includes a unanimous-decision win earlier this year against Quinton Jackson, himself part of the Bellator grand prix field.

That might explain Lawal’s confidence when he spoke to MMAjunkie Radio about his inclusion in the tournament.

“If you think about it, stylistically I match up bad against all of them,” Lawal said. “I can wrestle. I’m long. Granted, I’m not that tall, but I got a long reach. I’m quicker, and I got a pretty good gas tank. …

“I think I’m going to give all those guys problems. I’ve never been muscle in a fight. It might happen this tournament. Who knows? But I’m going to find a way to make sure that don’t happen. I find ways to keep the fight to my strengths. That’s what I’m going to do.”

To hear more from “King Mo” on the Bellator heavyweight grand prix, check out the video above.

And for more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Volunteer list grows: UFC vet Shane Carwin interested in Bellator grand prix

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Former UFC interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin, who’s previously flirted with the idea of an MMA return, is apparently interested again.

Carwin, 42, hasn’t fought since back-to-back losses to then-UFC champ Brock Lesnar (title loss) and Junior Dos Santos (in a title-eliminator) in 2011.

But after what would be a seven-year layoff, Carwin said he’s interested in an alternate slot in the Bellator’s upcoming eight-man heavyweight tournament, if needed (via Facebook and Twitter):

Carwin actually had first mentioned the possibility of entering the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018, which will crown a heavyweight champion, on Reddit, where he’s an active user.

When Reddit linked up an MMAjunkie story about the opening odds for the tournament – in which “TBA” has better odds than three confirmed participants – Carwin expressed interest:

“Nope, I am putting 10K on TBA and I am trying to become TBA.
edit: So shit, management says I can bet on TBA but not be TBA. Or I can be TBA and not bet on the event. I have been put on time out.”

However, Carwin isn’t the only vet to express interest in a reserve or injury-replacement spot in the tourney, which is a year-long affair that takes place over multiple events. As we reported on Monday, light heavyweight Linton Vassell (18-6 MMA, 7-3 BMMA) and even welterweight Rory MacDonald (19-4 MMA, 1-0 BMA) are also interested.

However, in a tourney that currently features four true heavyweights (Matt Mitrione, Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson and Frank Mir) and four 205-pounders (Ryan Bader, Muhammad Lawal, Chael Sonnen and Quinton Jackson), Carwin would bring some noticeable size to the field.

Carwin, a former collegiate wrestler and football player, was tapped for a 2016 return to MMA with Rizin FF, but he ultimately had to pull out due to personal issues.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Like Rory MacDonald, Linton Vassell wants a spot in Bellator's heavyweight tourney

Dann StuppLinton Vassell knows that MMA tournaments rarely go according to plan.

That’s why the former light-heavyweight title challenger is offering his services for the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.

The tournament field includes eight fighters – four heavyweights and four light heavyweights – who fight for the organization’s vacant heavyweight title.

Vassell (18-6 MMA, 7-3 BMMA), who was on a 4-1 run before a title loss to light-heavyweight champ Ryan Bader earlier this month, is ready to step in as an injury replacement – especially since he has some “unfinished business to attend to.”

He recently campaigned for a slot (via Twitter):

In addition to Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), Vassell has a past loss to fellow tourney participant Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA).

However, Vassell isn’t the only Bellator fighter campaigning for a slot in the tournament. Former UFC welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald (19-4 MMA, 1-0 BMA), who fights Bellator 170-pound champ Douglas Lima in January at Bellator 192, has also expressed interest – both via Twitter and a recent Facebook live chat – in a tourney spot. MacDonald, of course, would likely need to pack on some serious pounds if he got a slot.

Officials haven’t announced plans for any alternates or reserve bouts for the multi-event tournament, which kicks off in early 2018.

Opening-round matchups are expected to be formally announced in the coming weeks.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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