Last weekend, Bellator’s bantamweight world champion, Eduardo Dantas, was in action. No, it wasn’t on the star-lacking Bellator 73 card, and no, it wasn’t for his world championship. Instead Dantas travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and took part in a relatively small Shooto: Brazil event.
Headlining the card, Dantas took on journeyman Tyson Nam in what was supposed to be a showcase fight. “Dudu” should have walked through Nam and walked away with a highlight-reel victory in front of his home country fans. Of course, things did not happen as planned.
Dantas began as he should have, pressuring Nam and taking control of the fight. But late in the first round he was caught with a right hook on the button, knocked flat on the ground, and subsequently defeated in a stunning upset.
And what was accomplished? Even with a win, Dantas would have done nothing to raise his status as an elite bantamweight.
The freshly crowned Bellator champion has now suffered a first round defeat before ever defending his championship. Dantas almost certainly drops from his ranking as a top-10 bantamweight and will need to defeat top contender Marcos Galvao in spectacular fashion to prove his legitimacy.
In allowing their world champion to fight in a non-title, non-Bellator bout, the organization put themselves in a lose-lose situation, and lost big time.
I understand the financial burden on Dantas, but it is Bellator’s responsibility to keep their champions active.
This is a clear and evident sign that the tournament format no longer works. The promotion has world champions who do not fight more than once a year due to lack of opponents and this does not serve the best interests of neither the athlete not the promotion.
After winning the world championship in November 2011, Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler has only fought once; a non-title 56 second dismantling of Akihiro Gono in May. Welterweight champion Ben Askren as well has only fought once this year.
The tournament format is not only irrelevant; it is holding the promotion back. Champions are fighting once or twice per year when three to four fights would better suit the company and the athlete.
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