Bellator 115 (April 4, 2014) – that is the last time the Bellator heavyweight championship was defended.
Then-champion Vitaly Minakov retained the title against Cheick Kongo after a decision win.
The belt has likely gathered dust on Minakov’s mantle though the Russian fighter has competed four times in his home country. In May 2016 with MMA Junkie, Bellator President Scott Coker announced that it stripped Minakov of the title.
Since then, the Bellator heavyweight championship has been locked away in whatever part of the promotion’s warehouse. Or maybe it’s in Coker’s office, waiting for a new fighter to claim it.
Now is as good as time as any to find that fighter. In the last couple of years, Bellator has bolstered its heavyweight division signing well-known competitors like former Pride Heavyweight champion legend Fedor Emelianenko and “The Ultimate Fighter 10” alum Matt Mitrione, who are scheduled to clash at Bellator 172.
But there are a couple of fighters in Bellator who joined the roster later in their careers but have found success in the promotion’s cage – Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who will face each other in a heavyweight bout in Bellator 175’s main event.
Jackson defeated Lawal in their first encounter in the finals of the Season 10 Light Heavyweight tournament at Bellator 120 – the company’s first pay per view event. Although Jackson won the fight, many thought King Mo was robbed and so a rematch was inevitable – or so they thought as Rampage would leave Bellator because of contract disputes and return to the UFC for a short stint – a win over Fábio Maldonado.
After settling contract disputes, Jackson returned to Bellator in June of last year, earning a split-decision over Satoshi Ishii in the main event of Bellator 157.
Meanwhile King Mo went on a tear, winning eight of his next 10 fights – including capturing the Rizin Fighting Federation Grand Prix heavyweight crown. He’s gone 2-2 in his last two fights, including a decision win over Ishii and a TKO loss to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the 2016 Rizin Grand Prix quarterfinals on Dec. 29.
Bellator has two big names in the Bellator 175 main event, they should use that spot to crown the next heavyweight champion – or at least award the winner an opportunity to fight for the title.
I bring up that last part because there are a few competitors who could make a case for a heavyweight title shot, one being Mitrione if he defeats Emelianenko. Another candidate is Kongo, who is currently on a three-fight winning streak, including a victory over former titleholder Alexander Volkov.
However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Emelianenko gets an opportunity to fight for the heavyweight bout if he defeats Mitrione. “The Last Emperor” is still a huge draw, especially in international markets, and a match between him and Jackson/Lawal would be big money. Both Bellator 175 main eventers have said they are interested in a fight the former Pride heavyweight champion.
Bottom line: Bellator has a good heavyweight division and it needs an active champion. It needs a fighter who will proudly wear that championship belt. Jackson and Lawal are no strangers to world titles and either one of them would bring a lot of prestige to that title.