Eight fighters are set to compete for the Bellator lightweight title and the million-dollar prize.
Bellator President Scott Coker announced the participants on Wednesday’s “The MMA Hour.” The ones who have qualified for the title are Usman Nurmagomedov, Patricky Pitbull, AJ McKee, Mansour Barnaoui, Tofiq Musayev, Benson Henderson, Alexander Shabliy and Sidney Outlaw.
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) January 11, 2023
Nurmagomedov – the cousin of former UFC champion Khabib – upset former champion Patricky Pitbull for the Bellator gold in November by unanimous decision. The 16-0 fighter must now make his way through the tournament to retain his championship title.
“Pitbull” Freire lost his title to Nurmagomedov. He’s been in a rough patch as of late, dropping three of his last four bouts.
Former RIZIN tournament champion Musayev made his promotional debut just last July, but started off his career there by knocking out Sidney Outlaw in the first round.
Former Titan FC champion Outlaw had his winning streak spoiled by Musayev. Before that, he was 3-1 in his previous four bouts. The sole loss under Bellator came from former star Michael Chandler, who has now made his name in the UFC.
AJ McKee has been one of the main faces of the promotion as of late. He has gone 2-0 since moving up to lightweight. He upset younger Pitbull brother, Patricio, when he took the featherweight belt in 2021. He lost it in the rematch and that’s when he decided to make the leap.
Shabily is considered one of the hidden gems of the promotion. He has already racked up three wins for Bellator.
Barnaoui just debuted in the promotion in October. He was successful in picking off Adam Piccolotti via second round submission.
Former UFC champion Benson Henderson is getting a third try at a Bellator belt. Henderson went 6-4 in the promotion. He got back into the winning column with a pair of victories over Islam Mamedov and Peter Queally.
The tournament will start March 10 in San Jose. Here’s the reported matchups so far:
- Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Benson Henderson
- Tofiq Musayev vs. Alexander Shabliy
- Mansour Barnaoui
- A.J. McKee
- Sidney Outlaw
- Patricky Pitbull