Roy Nelson became the latest fighter to sign with Bellator MMA, after leaving the UFC. In the past year alone, major names have signed with UFC’s biggest rival. The likes of Lorenz Larkin and Rory MacDonald, who are still in their prime, have decided to take a chance and tread uncharted waters by moving to Bellator.
This could yet be just the beginning, with the UFC fighters disenchanted with numerous aspects – the major ones being the pay disparity, the Reebok deal and the promotion going for ‘money fights’, rather than giving deserving contenders a shot at the title.
The latest fighter to have dropped a hint regarding a UFC exit – and a potential move to Bellator, is former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Vitor Belfort. Belfort’s manager recently dropped the bombshell, teasing a fight between Vitor and the likes of Sonnen and Wanderlei.
“What I think it’s possible to imagine is: what does the MMA fan wants?” Lacerda, Vitor’s manager told MMA Ganhador podcast, as reported by MMAFighting. “He wants to see Vitor vs. Wanderlei, wants to see Vitor vs. Sonnen. He wants these type of fights. And it’s the type of fights that interest us. Vitor doesn’t need to prove anything regarding to ranking or title. The idea is to have fights that are interesting. Interest the fans, and interest the fighter.”
“I’m particularly crazy to see Vitor vs. Wanderlei. It’s a fight I pay to see. There are fights people want to see, and those are the fights that are interesting. Where it will be, and how it will be, I can’t say anything right now. But they might happen.”
Why UFC might have to seriously consider introducing the ‘League of Legends’
The middleweight division currently sticks out like a sore thumb in the premier Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the world. The champion, Michael Bisping refuses to fight the number one contender. When Bisping was waiting for his “money fight” with Georges St – Pierre to materialise, it made sense for the Brit to sit out and wait for his big payday.
However, now that GSP isn’t going to fight until the end of the year, Dana White, like any promoter would do, asked Bisping to fight Romero.
Instead, Bisping will not defend the middleweight strap against the Brazilian. This has forced Dana White to schedule yet another interim title fight, this time between Romero and Whittaker.
Until last month, Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest of all time, wanted to fight Romero for the interim strap. Dana White, however, rubbished Silva’s request, saying he doesn’t deserve to fight for the title.
This, coupled with the frustrations the fighters have been going through – whether in terms of the pay outs, sponsorship money or anything else, could force fighters to rethink about signing with the promotion.
As a matter of fact, UFC is currently negotiating with Gegard Mousasi and his team, for him to re-sign with the promotion. Mousasi, who last defeated Chris Weidman, however has refused to bow down to the promotion’s muscle. Instead, Mousasi is interested in testing the free agency, which once again would entice Scott Coker and the Viacom representatives to exercise their financial muscle.
Implications of failing to hold on to the veterans
In the recent past, Bellator MMA has signed the likes of Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva and Benson Henderson. The introduction of the Reebok deal has been a major boost for Coker and the promotion in putting forward a more lucrative alternative for the fighters.
Now with the likes of Vitor and Anderson Silva disenchanted with the promotion they had worked hard for, this could be a worrying sign for the UFC. The likes of Rory MacDonald, Ryan Bader and Roy Nelson have also decided to jump ships, and earn big pay checks – something they believed they were entitled to in the UFC.
There are a number of other fighters whose contracts are coming up, and they, similar to Lorenz Larkin, who will fight Douglas Lima for the welterweight strap on the historic Bellator NYC card, would be tempted to test the waters outside the UFC.
With Rizin FF being another option, where former UFC flyweight Kyoji Horiguchi has decided to ply his trade, the fighters no longer have to worry about stepping on toes, or upsetting the officials. Bellator capitalised on UFC’s marketing of the Sonnen – Wanderlei fight, which never happened in the UFC, and have put them on the Bellator NYC card. It is no longer a “what if” scenario for the UFC, regarding the exodus of the fighters.
Because when push comes to shove, the fighters now have a “Plan B” they can turn to.