Bellator MMA's inaugural pay-per-view event underwent a major change on Saturday, as lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez withdrew from the card's main event due to injury.
Alvarez (25-3) was forced to pull out of a trilogy fight against Michael Chandler due to lingering effects of a concussion he suffered two weeks ago. The bout was supposed to headline Bellator 120, the promotion's first PPV event, on May 17 in Southaven, Mississippi.
The card will now feature an interim lightweight title bout between Chandler (12-1) and fellow contender Will Brooks (13-1). A non-title light heavyweight bout between Quinton Jackson and Muhammed Lawal will headline the card. It will remain on PPV.
"The reality is that I'm disappointed," said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. "We're not going to be able to see the trilogy finished right now -- and I stress the words, right now. We still have a huge card on Saturday."
According to sources, Alvarez suffered the concussion during wrestling practice. Rebney said there was hope that Alvarez would recover in time to salvage the fight, but he was ultimately forced to withdraw early Saturday morning. There is no timetable for his return.
Alvarez and Chandler have met twice previously, both times for the Bellator title. The series currently sits at 1-1 between them.
It's the second time a Bellator PPV offering has been affected by injury. In November, the company was forced to scrap plans for an inaugural PPV event when headliner Tito Ortiz withdrew from a non-title bout against Jackson due to injury.
That event, Bellator 106, eventually aired on Spike TV. This time, Rebney said there was no consideration given to changing the card's PPV status.
"It's remaining a PPV because it's a PPV-worthy card," Rebney said. "It's a must-see card.
"I don't think the gods of MMA are against us. I just think these things are going to happen when you've got incredibly top-tier fighters going up against each other, prepping to fight somebody like Michael Chandler. Things are going to occur."
Also on the card, middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko (50-7) moves up to 205 pounds to challenge Ortiz (16-11-1).
Brooks, who was already scheduled to fight Nate Jolly on May 17, won the Bellator lightweight tournament with a decision over Alexander Sarnavsily in November.
"When I got the phone call to take this fight, I didn't hesitate," Brooks said. "I train at American Top Team. We're not training for certain opponents. We're training to get better every day as a fighter. That's what I've been doing and I know I'm getting better. This is a great opportunity to test those skills."