Last weekend, Bellator MMA’s anticipated Heavyweight Grand Prix officially got underway, as Chael Sonnen advanced to the second-round with a unanimous decision win over former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
While the tournament is now rolling, however, the official alternates – understudies should any fighters get injured – have been a mystery.
Speaking at the Bellator 192 post-fight press conference, Bellator President Scott Coker finally announced the Heavyweight Grand Prix alternates. The first will be former Bellator heavyweight title challenger Cheick Kongo. The other will be Javy Ayala, who recently came up short in a fun scrap with tournament entrant Roy Nelson. It is not known if these two will be matched up with one another, or merely left on standby in the event of an injury.
Kongo, who is currently riding high on a five-fight streak, was a logical choice for the tournament proper. According to Coker, however, he was left out due to his closeness to Rampage.
“He and Rampage are good friends and training partners, and the decision was not to put him in the tournament because of their relationship,” Coker explained.
Surprisingly, Coker also announced that the promotion is also likely to call up two additional alternates.
“We’ll probably be announcing two more heavyweights that we’ll invite this coming week, and then we might shuffle the deck, but we’ll let you know soon,” he explained.
While four alternates for an eight-man tournament might seem excessive, Coker knows full well how crazy these things can get, having promoted a similar Grand Prix in Strikeforce several years ago. That tournament was won by alternate an alternate fighter you may have heard of: Daniel Cormier.
“As you know, things can happen in a tournament,” Coker explained.
Who do you think comes out in Scott Coker’s exciting Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix? Make your pick in the comments section!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/22/2018.