Former Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus is not happy being left out of the upcoming million-dollar tournament that kicks off in March. A member of the Bellator roster for nearly a decade, Primus told MMA Fighting he found out during the Jan. 11 announcement that he was not one of the eight man.
“I was told I was in the tournament,” Primus said. “I literally called my manager every week for the last couple of months. ‘Dude, you’re in the tournament, I’ve already talked to him. You’re in the tournament, don’t worry.’ And I went to conditioning and looked at my phone and saw that I wasn’t in the tournament and, man, I just wanted to cry. I lost all motivation. It just hurts, man. Hurts really bad.
“I re-signed with Bellator a couple of years ago and that was one of the things like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna do the million-dollar lightweight tournament,’ so that was in my head the whole time. I was gonna put everything in this tournament and win this tournament so my wife can retire and doesn’t have to work anymore. I’m so freaking heartbroken, man. I respect Bellator, I love them, they picked me up when I was only 2-0 and nobody fighting me locally. I was thinking about giving up MMA so I respect them a bunch, but this is a hard pill to swallow. It’s hard.”
The lightweight tournament starts March 10 with champion Usman Nurmagomedov defending his title against Benson Henderson, who lost to Primus in October 2021, and Tofiq Musayev vs. Alexander Shabliy. Mansour Barnaoui faces Sidney Outlaw on May 12, while A.J. McKee takes on former champion Patricky Pitbull on a yet-to-be-announced date.
“What is so frustrating about the whole situation is I’ve been asking for a fight and they offered me a fight [against] that Mansour [Barnaoui] guy who’s in the tournament,” Primus said. “They offered me to fight him at the end of October in Italy. I said yes without hesitation. I thought I was fighting him. I was training for him, my wife asked for time off of work, my family started looking for plane tickets, and then a week later I got a call from my manager saying, ‘He does not want to fight you for his first Bellator fight, he wants to fight somebody else, so that was off the table.’ I was really pissed off about that. For him to say he doesn’t want to fight me and he’s in the tournament now is like a kick in the gut. It’s so hard to deal with, man. I’m so sad and disappointed. It sucks.”
Primus is 3-2 since losing the Bellator belt to Michael Chandler in 2018, but feels he had done enough to win a decision against Islam Mamedov in 2021. Primus said he was promised a title fight after beating Henderson three months later and jumped right back into camp, spending “a bunch of money,” but then “we found out that I’m not fighting for the title.” Primus lost to Alexander Shabliy in his most recent appearance.
“I’ve been training for [the tournament]. I’ve been training my butt off. It sucks,” Primus said. “I thought like, ‘Man, should I just retire and start teaching or get a job?’ I still don’t have a fight lined up right now, so I’m just keeping my face strong, praying and hoping everything will work out. They said that I’m the alternate for this tournament so I guess I can just cross my fingers and hope somebody gets injured.”
The veteran fighter, who turns 38 in April, admits he’s “disappointed in Bellator in the whole situation” but hoping someone gets injured — “but not too injured” — and he steps in as the alternate. In the meantime, Primus asks for a spot on the March 10 event in San Jose, Calif.
“I respect Bellator so much,” Primus said. “They’re so awesome. I like all the guys. I don’t really have too much of a relationship with Scott Coker, we’ve only talked a couple of times. I wish we had a better relationship. Maybe I’ll bring him some cookies or donuts after my next fight or and something, I don’t know. … Hopefully Bellator will give me a fight soon.”