Bellator Announces Grand-Prix Alternates
With Chael Sonnen’s decision victory over Rampage Jackson, the 2018 Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix is officially underway.
Following Saturday’s Bellator 192, Bellator CEO Scott Coker announced that Cheick Kongo and Javy Ayala would be the first set of alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
“We have a couple of fighters that we are gonna invite in as our first round of alternates because, as you know, things can happen in the tournament,” said Coker. “The last tournament I threw, it was the third alternate that ended up winning the whole thing in great fashion, and he won tonight, so congratulations.
“Cheick Kongo is someone we’re going to invite into the tournament and Javy Ayala, who had a really great fight with Roy Nelson. Both those heavyweights will be invited to come in and participate as alternates.”
Coker has experience in heavyweight title tournaments, previously putting on the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2011. And while the odds aren’t in Kongo or Ayala’s favor, the 2011 affair featured Daniel Cormier, an alternate who entered the tournament as a replacement for Alistair Overeem, won the tournament.
Both Kongo and Ayala have fought for Bellator since 2013.
Ayala is coming off an entertaining and competitive loss to tournament competitor Roy Nelson, while Kongo has put together an impressive run, winning the Bellator Season 9 heavyweight tournament before coming up short in his title shot against Vitaly Minakov. Other than that, Kongo’s only loss is a split decision to Muhammed Lawal and he is currently on a five-fight winning streak.
It seems that Kongo would be the first choice to serve as a replacement, although that is not official. For now, Coker is simply happy with the start of the tournament and where he believes everything is heading this year.
“I think the pairings are great,” said Coker. “I think it’s going to be really entertaining and I’m really excited about the year-long storyline and hosting this tournament.”