Bellator MMA made headlines even before tonight’s card, releasing lightweight champion Will Brooks and stripping heavyweight titleholder Vitaly Minakov.
Bellator president Scott Coker confirmed the moves with MMAjunkie.
Brooks (17-1) had gone 9-1 with the promotion, including wins over Michael Chandler and Marcin Held. His contract was set to expire this summer, but Coker didn’t want to wait until then to move on from the fighter.
“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.”
Minakov (17-0) has not fought for Bellator since 2014 when he defended the title against Cheick Kongo. He has fought three times for the Russian Eurasia Fight Nights promotion since his Bellator appearance. He will remain under contract with Bellator for the time being.
“There have been a lot of things that we were told he was going to do, and so far none of them has happened yet, so we’re going to be moving forward and start looking for the next heavyweight champ,” Coker said. “We’re going to build a series of fights that will lead to a fight to determine the next heavyweight champion for Bellator. But as far as waiting for Minakov to come back, I think we’ll be happy if he comes back, but if he doesn’t, we’re already moving on with the title.”