In the wake of massive UFC cuts, Jon Fitch's future was up in the air.
His release came as a complete shock to MMA fans and likely to the fighter himself. After all, a top-10 fighter isn't likely worried about being handed his walking papers after a single loss.
The Bellator cage figured to be where Fitch would find a home, but Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney axed that idea prior to last night's Bellator 90 event. The MMA Report has the details.
“I have a lot of respect for Jon [Fitch] and I have a lot of respect for anyone who has to courage to do what these guys do and the athletic ability to do what they do but we are not going to be signing Jon Fitch,” Rebney said.
Rebney is banking on developing fighters already under the Bellator banner. As we've seen in the past, Bellator has looked to make a big splash by signing ex-UFC/ex-Strikeforce fighters only to have the move be a flop.
Fitch's name is certainly recognizable with the MMA crowds, but with a 1-2-1 record in his past four fights, Rebney would prefer to develop a fighter from within.
“We have a stacked welterweight division right now. We have a lot of guys that we are developing that we anticipate are going to be world class fighters and break the top ten," Rebney said.
Perhaps some of Rebney's reasoning became evident after he explained that each free agent fighter is looked at on an individual basis.
"There is no hard and fast line in the sand with us. ‘King Mo’ Lawal came out of Strikeforce. He is one of my favorite fighters fighting in our organization. He is wildly exciting and awesomely talented. Ben ‘Killa B’ Saunders is another example and is fighting for us tonight. He came out and lost two straight in the UFC when we signed him. I just liking watching him fight. I love the knees and I love the clinch game and I thought he was exciting, so we signed him. There will be others like that. There will be other guys that get released from the UFC and it’s not a hard and fast rule.”
There's some smarts in not signing Fitch, despite where he ranks in the welterweight division. If a former UFC fighter were to come in and run through Bellator's "stacked welterweight division," it would make Rebney's product look bad.
And clearly Rebney wants exciting fighters, something Fitch isn't known for.
I'm sure Fitch will rejoin the UFC's ranks soon if he continues fighting on a regular basis, as he's simply too good not to be in the Octagon at this point in his career. The AKA fighter admitted in 2012 that he needed to be more exciting and hopefully he continues to add some flare to his grinding style.
As for Bellator, they seem content with growing their company from within, and judging off how exciting the past few cards have been, that doesn't seem as ludicrous of a thought as it used to be.