Bellator's season premiere is April 8, and if you're not excited about their upcoming tournaments, you will be by the end of this post. They've been on an announcement spree. Here are the highlights.
Signings: Bellator has picked up lightweight Carey Vanier, middleweight Eric Schambari, featherweights Shad Lierley and Eric Marriott, welterweights Ryan Thomas and Brett Cooper and re-signed Wilson Reis.
But their biggest signing -- both literally and figuratively -- is heavyweight Cole Konrad. When I spoke with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney in January, he mentioned that the promotion plans on expanding to heavyweight and light heavyweights, and Konrad is an excellent addition.
He's not only Brock Lesnar's training partner, but Konrad was a two-time national champion wrestler for the University of Minnesota. (Lesnar had one national championship.) A strong and powerful wrestler, his skills should transfer well to MMA, where his record is 2-0.
Another heavyweight during that same time? Cain Velasquez. Konrad beat Velasquez in the semifinals of the 2006 NCAA championships.
Matchups: Bellator also announced the opening bouts for their welterweight and featherweight tournaments.
Welterweight: Ben Askren (3-0) vs. Ryan Thomas (10-3); Dan Hornbuckle (19-2) vs. Sean Pierson (9-4); Jacob McClintock (6-0) vs. “Judo” Jim Wallhead (18-5) and Steve Carl (12-1) vs. Brett Cooper (12-5)
Featherweight: Joe Warren (2-1) vs. Eric Marriott (17-2); Georgi Karakhanyan (12-1-1) vs. Bao Quach (17-9-1); Wilson Reis (9-1) vs. Shad Lierley (5-2) and Patricio Pitbull (12-0) vs. William Romero (5-0)
Also, a non-tournament bout between former UFC fighter Josh Neer and season one lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez some time in May.
Locations: For many of you, Bellator is coming to a theater or arena near you. (That includes me!) The promotion is headed to Kansas City, Mo. (April 29, June 24, Aug. 26, and Oct. 14), Chicago (April 15 and Aug. 19), Boston (May 6 and Oct. 21) and Florida (April 8). Dates and locations will continue to be announced, so continue to check with Cagewriter for more information.