There is a saying in the world of college basketball: do whatever you have to do to make the tournament. From there, anything can happen.

In the world of MMA, that saying can really only be applied to Bellator. At this point, it is well known that the promotion prides itself on the eight-fighter tournaments that it holds each season. Rather than depending on a ladder system or an elaborate matchmaking process, the promotion lays out a format that in order to gain a title shot, you must win three consecutive tournament fights.

After attending Bellator 63 as a member of the press, I sat in attendance for the post-event press conference where I asked Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney if there were any fighters on the undercard that impressed him to a point where they will be in an upcoming tournament. He replied, saying that Andrey Koreshkov’s victory on the night had more or less sealed his spot in the next season’s welterweight tournament. The Russian has made the most of his tournament slot and is currently waiting for his fight against Lyman Good to officially be given a home.

Fighting at this Friday’s Bellator 81 will be Joe Lamoureux. To most, Lamoureux falls under the category of someone who they have never heard of. But to me, he is “Sloppy Joe,” the Cage Fighting Xtreme middleweight champion. Firsthand, I have covered him fighting two times and have seen what he is capable of doing. Now, the champion of the New England-based promotion has caught the eye of those at Bellator, earning himself an undercard fight. Personally, it will be more tense for me to watch “Sloppy Joe” based on my history of covering his fights, but to the average fan, it could be the start of a path that one of their champions went through.

Current lightweight champion Michael Chandler, like Lamoureux, was given his chance with the promotion. He was awarded an undercard spot at Bellator 31, and after winning his fight in under two minutes, he was awarded a main card fight just a few weeks later. Those victories sealed his tournament spot, and the rest is history.

Sure, there will always be MMA veterans who enter straight into a tournament simply based on their name alone. Fighters like Roger Huerta, Rich Clementi and War Machine are examples of that path to a tournament berth. Those veterans have already done enough to qualify for the tournament elsewhere. But fighters like Lamoureux still have to make a first, and lasting, impression on both fans and the promotion.

But an opportunity to fight on a Bellator undercard is not just a chance to make it to the big stage for the first time. For the relative unknown, it is an opportunity to showcase their skills and earn national exposure, but more importantly, it is a chance to fight their way into one of the promotion’s $100,000 tournaments.

All it takes is an impressive performance and, from there, anything can happen.

Photo: Joe Lamoureux (Brian McKenna/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.