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Bellator Fighting Championships set for April debut on ESPN Deportes

The Bellator Fighting Championships confirmed previous reports on Wednesday that the upstart promotion has signed an exclusive television agreement with ESPN Deportes.

According to a press release issued by the company, the promotion’s first show is set for April of 2009.

While it had been rumored that Bellator would be pursuing a reality television concept, the organization has confirmed that it has opted to build its format around a series of tournaments in four separate weight classes.

“We are implementing a tournament structure to determine champions and #1 challengers so that world-class fighters can control their destiny based on their performance.” BFC founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney is quoted as saying in a press release. “Bellator events will showcase highly competitive fights between top competitors with each tournament bout winner earning substantially larger purses and moving closer to a championship fight. Simply put, at Bellator, fighters fight their way to the title.”

Bellator, which is Latin for Warrior, will hold eight-man tournaments at featherweight (145 pounds), lightweight (155 pounds), welterweight (170 pounds) and middleweight (185 pounds).

In addition to using a tournament format to help build stars, the promotion also intends to film features on each fighter to help convey each competitor’s backstory.

“We will use the simple yet powerful sports programming philosophy of combining elite competition with compelling feature pieces that tell the story of who these fighters are, where they’re from and why they compete,” company founder & COO Brad Epstein is quoted as saying.  “MMA fighters have incredibly rich stories to tell, and we will bring these to MMA fans, allowing our audience to identify with who these warriors really are.”

According the press release, each tournament winner will be able to earn up to $175,000 for three wins. Fighters eliminated from tournament competition will also be well-compensated with opening round winners receiving $25,000, semi-finalists getting $50,000, and finalists netting $100,000.

While the promotion has not yet begun to sign fighters, Bellator has already reportedly engaged in negotiations with reprensentatives for Paulo Filho, Wilson Reis, Hector Lombard, Jorge Masvidal, and Eddie Alvarez.

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