Roy Nelson sounds a lot like a voice from Bellator’s past when he talks the appeal of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix.
“It’s knowing if I win three fights, I’ll be champion – plain and simple,” Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), who next faces Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) at Bellator 194, told MMAjunkie.
Former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney harped on the same idea for years under the promotion’s previous structure, positioning it as a fairer alternative to the UFC, where title shots are often gifted to strong draws.
Of course, tournament winners under the previous structure often were delayed by the current champ’s schedule. But it made for some good marketing.
When Nelson defected from the industry leader this past year, Bellator was two years removed from Rebney’s tenure. Tournaments were out, and “tentpole” events – often featured dubious matchups between aging UFC legends – were in.
“Big Country” started his new job by outpointing the unheralded Jay Ayala this past September at Bellator 183. Then, like the rest of the heavyweight roster, he waited to see if he’d fight for the vacant title.
As it turned out, he’d have to fight to get there. But he could predict the outcome – if he performed as expected.
New Bellator chief Scott Coker is still a sucker for a tournament, having cut his teeth with Japanese promotions early in his career. And so with the heavyweight grand prix, Nelson gets his best chance to win a title in a major MMA organization. His competition starts when he meets Mitrione in the Paramount-televised headliner on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
After eight years in the UFC, Nelson is happy to know exactly where he’s headed.
“I’ve been in other organizations where I’ve won three in a row, and every time, it’s always, ‘You just win that next one,’” he said. “It went on like that for Junior Dos Santos where he cleared out the whole heavyweight division, pretty much.”
Under Coker’s tenure, Bellator has garnered its highest ratings to date, proving that most MMA fans are more interested in recognizable commodities than competitive architecture. The buzz helped convince Viacom to invest more substantially in talent like Nelson, whose popularity as a belly-rubbing brawler always exceeded his fortune in the octagon.
With so many recognizable commodities, Bellator has bet that fans will engage for the long run as the tournament plays out over the next year.
The way Nelson sees it, even the casual MMA watcher will have something to follow. So he’s happy to get in on the throwback.
“It allows fans to follow MMA,” he said. “People that don’t watch college basketball, they watch college basketball when March comes. Because they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s the team that’s 60-14. I don’t even know anything about it, but I want that team to win because it’s the Cinderella story.’
“Our in our case, ‘I want that old guy to win because he’s the oldest guy in the tournament.’”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Blast from the past: Why Bellator 194's Roy Nelson digs MMA tourneys