Season eleven of Bellator will be starting this coming Friday, September 5th with Bellator 123 located at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. This season will certainly be significant for the promotion due to the various changes that will be implemented. In essence this is a period of transition for the promotion which will see it be revamped into something probably resembling something like Strikeforce. Then there are also the various title fights, marquee match ups and a new division being added to the promotion that will also see a transition. These changes can be settled into three categories that will be addressed:
Leadership and Format Changes
During the 2014 Summer Series, it was announced that Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney resigned from the company and was swiftly replaced by Scott Coker. Coker immediately announced that Bellator would be dropping the tournament format for a more traditional matchmaking model. To that effect, this will probably be the last actual season of Bellator as it will probably spread its’ events out in a more fight night deal. This will also be the final time that the tournament finals are concluded as no more tournaments will take place unless it’s a grand prix as Coker stated in a previously. Also championships will be fought individually.
Resurrection of the Women’s Division
Shortly after his installation, Coker announced that Bellator was bringing back the women’s MMA division. However, this time it would be in the featherweight division which he’d worked with in Strikeforce. The first two fighters announced as part of the division were former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Marloes Coenen and top contender Julia Budd. In subsequent weeks others signed included undefeated Talita Nogueira and the rising Annalisa Bucci. It hasn’t been announced when Coenen and Budd will face off but one can only assume that it will be in the fall and possibly for the inaugural championship.
Title Defenses and Promotional Debuts
The final tournament title shots will be honored and as such expect title winners to fight for the titles in their respective divisions. There were some big signings during the summer. The most notable includes former WWE star Bobby Lashley. Others include TUF Finalist Stephen Bonnar, UFC veteran James Irvin, kick boxer Melvin Manhoef, Ryan Couture, and Hideo Tokoro. Currently set title defenses include Pat Curran versus Patricio Freire, Emanuel Newton at light heavyweight versus Joey Beltran, and Alexander Shlemenko defending his middleweight title against Brandon Halsey.