The Bellator bantamweight grand prix will have to kick off without the champion as an injury has forced Sergio Pettis out of his opening bout against teammate Raufeon Stots.

Now on April 23 at Bellator 279, former champ Juan Archuleta (25-3) will step in to face Stots (17-1) for the interim title at Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.

A person with knowledge of the matchup recently informed MMA Junkie of the change but asked to remain anonymous since the promotion has yet to make an official announcement. CBS Sports was first to report the news.

Archuleta already was tabbed to compete in the eight-man bantamweight tournament but was yet to have an opponent announced. The former champ, who captured the vacant 135-pound title by defeating Patchy Mix at Bellator 246, last competed when he was dethroned by Pettis (22-5) at Bellator 258 in May.

Unbeaten as a Bellator fighter, Stots will head into his first title fight riding a nine-fight winning streak. The 33-year-old is coming off back-to-back wins over Josh Hill and most recently Magomed Magomedov at Bellator 264.

Pettis, the younger brother of former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, would’ve been looking to kick off the grand prix with his second title defense after defeating Kyoji Horiguchi last December with the Knockout of the Year.

Shortly after news surfaced of his withdrawal, Pettis revealed he will be out six to nine months due to an injury that will require surgery.

“Well Bellator should be announcing today that I’m out the tournament for a million dollars,” Pettis wrote on his Facebook.”Sustained a injury last Monday that will put me out for 6-9 months and I’ll be getting my first surgery after years of competing. Just wasn’t meant to be and I’ve come to peace with that. Definitely depressing but I’m ready to get this ball rolling and return asap.”

With the change, the lineup of Bellator 279 currently includes:

Juan Archuleta vs. Raufeon Stots – for interim bantamweight title
Champ Cris Cyborg vs. Arlene Blencowe – for featherweight title
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Patchy Mix
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Justine Kish
Yancy Medeiros vs. Emmanuel Sanchez
Justin Gonzales vs. Kai Kamaka III


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