Mixed martial arts is a very unpredictable sport. Not only can fights end suddenly and in an unexpected fashion, but fighters can also go down to injury and create a void in a fight card. Bellator MMA sought to devise a solution to the problem before it affected another one of its tournament finals or championship bouts. However, looking at the model that they put into place, it seems to leave a number of question marks that need to be addressed.
In a press release that was distributed earlier this week, Bellator introduced a model that will allow the promotion to replace tournament champions that are pulled out of title fights for whatever reason. The model established a points system that will determine the next individual in line to receive the title shot, should the slot become open. The model assigns points in the following fashion:
Every fighter that wins via decision will be rewarded with one point. For a stoppage that is earned in the third round, the fighter will earn two points. A stoppage in the second round will give the same fighter three points. And a stoppage in the first round will earn the fighter four points. Stoppages are defined as knockout, technical knockout or submission victories.
The top three scoring tournament participants will be the group of individuals that will be used to find the next title challenger. A fourth fighter can also be added, at the discretion of Bellator MMA executives. From these three or four names, a panel of individuals -- current Bellator titleholders, tournament winners, and promotion executives -- will then select the next contender through a vote. Each of these three groups will carry 33 percent voting power to determine the next individual to face the champion.
Confused yet? That's just the start of the problem.
What was the logic that was used to determine that a finish in the second round is more valuable than one in the third? What standards are used to determine the fourth fighter that is added to the mix via Bellator MMA executives? When fighters are voting on the next individual to get the title shot, are fighters who may be teammates of the athletes in question allowed to vote for their teammate to give him a shot that may not fully be deserved?
While it is understandable that Bellator MMA needs to find a way to get out in front of a problem that can immediately snowball a division, this model doesn't plug up the holes that need to be addressed. Perhaps the matchmakers that create the brackets should develop an actual seeding program, and then reward the next highest seed that made it the furthest in the tournament with the title shot. The fighter who was removed from the tournament final should then be given either an immediate title shot or be the next individual in line without having to compete in another tournament, depending on the reason why he was removed from the tournament final.
Perhaps this is a sign that the promotion needs to move away from the tournament format in its entirety. While it will not do so in the end, the organization needs to come up with a better solution that will close up all the loopholes that the current format creates. Yes, they are looking to use the tournament to build their own stars, but how has Emmanuel Newton been pushed since his knockout of the year candidate finish of “King Mo?” The answer is not much.
As Bellator MMA continues to grow and spend more time in the spotlight, there are changes that will have to be made to the foundation that the promotion has created. This is the first of many changes that will be needed if this organization is going to move into the next stage of its development.