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Bellator MMA announces move to Showtime, 205-pound Grand Prix


For the second time in six months, Bellator MMA will be moving their TV location within the Viacom family.

Mauro Ranallo, Bellator president Scott Coker and Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza made the announcement Tuesday that Bellator will be moving to Showtime exclusively in the U.S. starting on Friday, April 2nd -- the kickoff for three straight weeks of events. Coker said a big announcement for the European market is coming on Thursday or Friday.

This will be the first time the premium cable network will host MMA since the final Strikeforce show on January 12, 2013, before the organization folded into the UFC. The events will be live on Fridays starting at 9 PM Eastern.

In September, Bellator moved to CBS Sports Network for Thursday shows after a seven year run on Spike TV/Paramount Network that also included a short run on sports streaming service DAZN.

Espinoza gave no business reason for the move other than saying it was the right time to do it. While fellow premium pay channel HBO got out of the boxing business, Showtime has continued to be heavily involved with Espinoza saying the kickoff weekend will also feature a boxing event on Saturday.

April 2nd's Bellator 255 will feature featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull defending against Emmanuel Sanchez in a Featherweight Grand Prix tournament fight, while April 9th's Bellator 256 will see the kickoff of their first-ever Light Heavyweight Grand Prix with former light heavyweight champion and current heavyweight titleholder Ryan Bader rematching Lyoto Machida and Corey Anderson facing the debuting Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.

Two more Grand Prix fights will follow at Bellator 257 on April 16th as current champion Vadim Nemkov will rematch Phil Davis and the debuting Yoel Romero will face the debuting Anthony "Rumble" Johnson in a high profile pairing of former UFC title contenders. They also announced May 7th's Bellator 258 will feature bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta defending against Sergio Pettis.

Ranallo intimated he will be involved with the Bellator product, but it's unclear if that will be back in the play-by-play chair or as part of the presentation for the show.