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Bellator: Building on UFC Veterans, the Impending Pay-Per-View and More

Jun 19, 2013; Thackerville, OK, USA; Bellator chief executive officer Bjorn Rebney poses for a portrait before the start of BFC 96 at the WinStar World Casino. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

Bjorn Rebney has made it clear in the past through interviews and statements; Bellator does not want to build their company on UFC veterans, and he doesn't want to become a feeder system to the world's largest promotion. This can somewhat be seen in the never-ending negotiations with Eddie Alvarez and their unwillingness to sign Jon Fitch when he became a free agent.

However, let's be honest here. Bellator is a business that is looking to sign the best available talent to give fans the highest-quality fights possible. That's what is best for business.

Although Bellator is attempting to build a rep as a star-creating company, as showcased by their high promotion of Michael Chandler and Patricio Freire, Bellator has built their company on past UFC fighters. From Roger Huerta a few years ago to the two men headlining their impeding pay-per-view (Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz), it has just been the nature of the beast to the tournament-based company.

While they try to build their success on budding stars and the attractive tournament format, they must recognize how much UFC talent they have on their roster before Rebney makes assertions about not wanting UFC talent.

Here are just the names of fighter listed on Bellator.com as on their roster (Note: They also have fighters not listed on the website that compete on the undercards from time-to-time, including UFC fighters).

FighterRecordLast UFC FightNext Bellator Fight
Cheick Kongo18-8-2Knockout loss to Roy Nelsonvs. Mark Godbeer
Houston Alexander15-9Decision loss to Kimbo Slicevs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Vladimir Matyushenko26-7Submission loss to Ryan Badervs. Houston Alexander
Rampage Jackson32-11Decision loss to Glover Teixeiravs. Tito Ortiz
Tito Ortiz16-11-1Decision loss to Forrest Griffinvs. Rampage Jackson
Muhammad Lawal**11-2N/Avs. Emanuel Newton
Dan Cramer10-4Decision loss to Matt RiddleTBD
Nah-Shon Burrell9-3Decision loss to Stephen ThompsonTBD
War Machine13-4Submission loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshidavs. Vaughn Anderson
Ben Saunders16-5-2Decision loss to Dennis Hallmannvs. Douglas Lima
John Alessio34-16Decision loss to Shane Rollervs. Will Brooks
Matt Riddle7-3No contest vs. Che Millsvs. Luis Melo
Rich Clementi45-22-1Submission loss to Gleison Tibauvs. Rob Sinclair
Saad Awad14-5Decision loss to Joey Riveravs. Martin Stapleton
JJ Ambrose19-4Decision loss to Sevak Magakianvs. David Rickels
Marcus Davis22-9Knockout loss to Jeremy Stephensvs. Alexander Sarnavskiy
Mike Guymon14-6-1Submission loss to DaMarques JohnsonTBD
Kurt Pellegrino16-7Decision loss to Gleison Tibauvs. Saul Almeida
Paul Sass13-2Decision loss to Danny CastilloTBD
Martin Stapleton12-1Submission loss to Cameron Dollarvs. Saad Awad
Rob Emerson12-10Decision loss to Nik LentzTBD
Diego Nunes18-4Decision loss to Nik Lentzvs. Patricio Freire
Mike Richman15-3Decision loss to Aaron WilkinsonTBD

 

Now, I understand that when a fighter is cut from the UFC, they have to go with the best option available. In most cases, that option is Bellator.

However, recent turns in Eddie Alvarez's situation, including finding out his contract stipulation upon re-signing with Bellator, caused Dana White to say a loss by Alvarez would mean he wouldn't get signed by the UFC upon release from his contract. It's a lose-lose situation for Alvarez.

So it's kind of a two-way street. In looking at the men I listed in the tables who are UFC vets in Bellator, you can see all but one entered Bellator upon losing their final UFC fight. Sure, they may have picked up a regional win or two in the meantime, but it was shown that they were no longer at the top of the MMA food chain (i.e. the UFC).

Of course, fighters are capable of growing and becoming better. That is the case with a guy like Saad Awad or War Machine, who have greatly improved since their brief time in the UFC.

However, you also need to consider guys that have recently just left Bellator that are UFC vets as well. Two of them retired in Renato Sobral and Seth Petruzelli. The other two were released for questionable behavior outside the cage, something showcased while in the UFC in Paul Daley and Maiquel Falcao.

All four of them were prominently featured players in the company. Sobral, Petruzelli and Falcao all competed in at least one tournament, while Daley was to be the next poster boy before his demise for poor conduct.

Obviously, Bellator is trying to build their brand or else they wouldn't be putting on a pay-per-view fight between Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson, two proven draws that can talk people into ticket sales. Sure, they are over the hill at this point, but Bellator is going to be smart by also showcasing their up-and-coming talent and champions. That would be guys like Pat Curran, Michael Chandler and Emanuel Newton.

That being said, an interim title match between Muhammed Lawal and Emanuel Newton, a rematch in which Newton claimed the first fight, reeks of so much desperation on the part of the company. Attila Vegh, their current champion, has only had the title for less than a year and has only been unable to defend it on one, maybe two occasions. By having an interim title bout between a guy who deserves his shot at Vegh in Newton and a guy they are pushing to the moon (wrestling terms, people!) shows how shallow the talent pool is.

Again, they say they aren't trying to be a storage room for UFC fighters, but yet they sign guys pretty soon after they are released by the UFC. Nah-Shon Burrell, Diego Nunes and several others barely got a chance to catch their breath before Bellator came calling.

Believe me, I enjoy Bellator greatly. In fact, I am pulling for them as an alternative form of entertainment from the UFC because I believe competition is healthy. However, they way they are going about it is more wrong than right.

Just look at Bellator 99 for example this past weekend. The card lacked star power, but it provided huge entertainment. If they can consistently do that, they can slowly build their brand from card to card, especially with Viacom and Spike TV firmly in their corner.

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