If you've been hiding under a rock on this fine Thursday morning, you likely missed this news (which I received via email bright and early this morning):
WHAT: Media Conference Call hosted by Spike TV to announce major talent deal involving Bellator Fighting Championships and TNA Wrestling
WHO: Kevin Kay, President Spike TV
Bjorn Rebney, Chairman and CEO, Bellator Fighting Championships
Dixie Carter, President, TNA Entertainment
WHEN: Thursday, May 10 at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT
What could Bellator and TNA Wrestling—both of whom are owned by media giant Viacom—possibly be announcing during a joint conference call?
No, we're not going to find out that Kurt Angle has finally, for real this time, decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts after five years of coming up with amazing excuses as to why he couldn't actually do it.
The story is this: Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal has signed a dual contract with Bellator and TNA.
Lawal's deal with Viacom was actually signed three weeks ago, but Zuffa retained matching rights to any new contract offers Lawal received despite firing him.
What does this news mean? How does it impact mixed martial artists going forward?
In truth, this deal won't have much of a lasting impact on MMA. The number of legitimate mixed martial artists who want to try their hand at pro wrestling is very small. Lawal was a huge fan of professional wrestling growing up and always wanted to try his hand at the pseudo-sport, but there was never any chance of that happening while under contract to Zuffa.
With Bellator, things are different. They're both under the same corporate umbrella, which means there's an opportunity for cross-promotion. The UFC was also under that same corporate umbrella, at least in terms of television deals, but Dana White makes it a personal point not to have his product confused with pro wrestling.
Bjorn Rebney has no such qualms. In fact, I'd say that he's welcoming those confusions, at least judging from this news. It's a smart move for Bellator. They need all the exposure they can get, and if TNA and their meager 1.2-1.6 million viewers each week can help them get the eyeballs they need, then more power to them.
Lawal cannot fight until the fall due to his drug failure suspension from earlier this year, so expect to see plenty of him in a pro-wrestling ring this summer.