In 2018, Bellator MMA will crown a heavyweight champion by way of an action-packed heavyweight Grand Prix. This headline-dominating tournament will kick off on January 20, when three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen takes on former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Then, in the subsequent months, we’ll witness matchups between Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione, Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir, and lastly, Ryan Bader and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
In the opinion of Chael Sonnen, any one of these dangerous competitors has a real shot at winning it all.
“I’ll throw myself out of [the discussion], and let’s see here,” Sonnen said when asked to assess his competition on the latest episode of BJ Penn Radio. “I think that it’s very interesting. There’s some complaints that some light heavyweights are getting thrown in, but I think whoever wins between Bader and Mo has to be on the fast track. I think that’s a really hard fight. Anyways, that’s the championship fight.”
“You got Mitrione sitting in there, who is Bellator’s number one contender,” Sonnen continued. “If you want a tournament, and you’re just going to right into a fight, Mitrione is going to be one half of that, and then Roy Nelson, what a pain in the ass that is for Mitrione. They’ve already fought once. I’m sure Mitrione would like to get [that loss] back, but either way, Roy knows he can beat him, because he has beaten him.”
“I’m not one of the guys that’s ever overlooked Fedor,” Sonnen added, riffing on the MMA legend Emelianenko. “I’ve always been impressed at the size of guys he fights. He fights these really, really big guys. I’ve never really dusted him off and thought, okay he’s done or over the hill. He just fights really big guys and when those punches connect.”
“I’m not overlooking Fedor. Frank Mir, always the hammer… World champion. How do you act like he can’t go out and win this whole thing, particularly when it’s just one fight per night and spread out over roughly 12 months?”
“Rampage, a former world champion… I’m a tournament guy myself, I guess I was supposed to leave myself out of it, but I like tournaments. This is what I grew up doing.”
What do you think of Chael Sonnen’s take on his Grand Prix competition? Who do you think captures the heavyweight title?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 30/11/2017.