Two Bellator Champions no longer hold those belts, as the organization has released Lightweight Champ Will Brooks and stripped Heavyweight Champ Vitaly Minakov.
The two moves were first reported by MMAJunkie.com, with Bellator President Scott Coker commenting on both situations.
“It was very simple,” Coker said. “Will Brooks’ contract is ending, and we made a decision not to renew it. We’re going to give him a full release, so we’re not going to be in the Will Brooks business any longer.
“We’re going to retain Minakov’s rights with the company, but we are going to strip him of the title for lack of participation, basically. We hope we can work it out, but we’re going to be moving on from Minakov.”
Brooks captured the Vacant Bellator Lightweight Title in his second win over Michael Chandler in 2014 after Bellator released their previous champ Eddie Alvarez. He then defended the belt twice more over Dave Jansen and Marcin Held, and spent the better part of the last eight months criticizing the organization while making his intentions to leave following the end of his contract clear. After shelving him for several months, the organization has now made a clean break.
As for Minakov, the 31-year-old undefeated Russian hasn’t appeared in Bellator since an April 2014 win over Cheick Kongo, instead spending his last three fights in Russia under the Fight Nights banner. Due to that inactivity, they’re moving forward without him as champion.
Penick’s Analysis: The Brooks move perhaps should have happened sooner if they weren’t going to give him a fight to finish his contract up, but at least they’re letting him move on. Hopefully he gets a respectable offer from the UFC, because he’s among the top end of the division, and his predecessor is about to fight for the UFC Lightweight Title in July. It’s not a good look for Bellator’s titles, not that they have truly held much meaning over the last several years, because they have a bunch of champions now in their divisions – or now vacancies – due to their reigning champions leaving. Still, they’re not holding Brooks up any further, which is the right thing to do in this situation.
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