When it was announced that Josh Barnett was not going to accept the UFC’s offer, it seemed that he would be a natural fit for Bellator; after all, Barnett is everything that a smaller promotion covets.
When it was then announced by Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney that he was not interested in Barnett, I couldn’t believe how short-sighted it all seemed.
Sometimes chess games are decided one pawn at a time; in that regard, Bellator is doing well, developing and promoting a stable of good fighters.
But pawns alone don’t keep you in the game for very long—let alone win it—and when a big-named fighter becomes available, it should jump on the chance to snatch him up.
Given that the UFC is going to be making several cuts to its roster, Bellator talent scouts should be waiting at the street corner, checkbooks in hand, ready to snatch up the big-named fighters who have a head start on establishing their reputations.
Fighters like Jon Fitch and Josh Barnett should have been mulling over offers from Bellator minutes after their releases from the UFC were made official.
Fans follow fighters, and the more known the name, the more attention that they attract; this is not abstract thinking, just a simple truth.
While it may be that Bellator only wants certain kinds of fighters, right now, it is in a good position to start investing in its future, and that future is found in the width, breadth and depth of its stable.
Men like Fitch, Barnett, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Jacob Volkmann, Vladimir Matyushenko, Jorge Santiago and many others would have lent Bellator an element of legitimacy in the eyes of the common fan—a demographic that the organization needs to court in every possible way.
These are all men who have been seen on the biggest stage; Bellator wouldn’t have needed to invest large amounts of money trying to promote them because the UFC had already done that.
In order to get big in the promotional business, the need to think big is a necessity, and that means taking chances on big-named fighters, all with an eye toward the big-named fights that they could enable down the line.
As 2013 continues on, Bellator needs to be ready to pull as many established names into the fold as possible. It may seem like accepting scraps from another table, but in every serious kitchen of repute, one of the key skills is knowing how to make a great meal from the leftovers.