Bellator is gearing up for the start of season four, and has already announced the brackets for their welterweight tournament and are setting up the lightweight brackets as well. In the meantime, the company’s champs won’t be sitting easy! Rather, they will be heading back into the cage to don the fingerless gloves once more. However, this time only one of these champs will put his title on the line.
Pat Curran will take on Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 39 on April 2, while Welterweight Champion Ben “Funky” Askren returns to the cage for the first time since his impressive title win over Lyman Good when he meets UFC veteran Nick “The Goat” Thompson at Bellator 40 on April 9. Curran was supposed to fight Alvarez in October, but a shoulder injury suffered in training forced him out of the fight, leading to Roger Huerta replacing him in a non-title fight in Philly. Thompson will be making his Bellator debut, although he is no stranger to the fight game with a record that boasts 52 fights overall. “The Goat” has gone 0-3 in his last outings, so it’s no wonder that this is not a title fight, but rather a tune-up fight for Askren.
This is one of the odd things about Bellator’s format. The system works, in that the winner of the tournament “controls their own destiny” as Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has said many times. It also works against the company sometimes, in that we do not get too many title fights in the company. The only reason Alvarez is defending his strap is because he was supposed to fight Curran since he is already established as the number one contender for his belt. Askren still has to wait several months to see who will meet him in his first title defense. Rebney has also said he is not worried about seeing a champ lose a non-title fight or that jeopardizing his own storylines, but we will see if he changes his tune if that ever occurs.
This is Alvarez’s first title defense, and no venue has been set yet for the April 2 show, while Askren will meet Thompson in Oklahoma. What do you think about this aspect of Bellator’s tournament format that limits the amount of time we see champions defend their belts?