Now that’s not to say that Bellator hasn’t signed fighters after being released from the UFC – Ben Saunders, Paul Daley, and Maiquel Falcao are just a few of the former fighters that competed in the Octagon and received their walking papers before Bellator snatched them up.
But with Strikeforce on life support and only days remaining until a list of fighters becomes available after the inevitable happens and they are released when the promotion is no more, will Bellator swoop in to sign a huge lot of them?
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney says that has never been his company’s business plan and he doesn’t think it will change just because Strikeforce is gone, but if talent is there and it’s worthwhile, he would be open to exploring the option.
“One of my focuses when I built up the business plan was to build from within, to create our own superstars and to not be like the EliteXCs and the IFL’ and the Bodogs and the Afflictions and all of these different groups who tried to grab the fighters that had been released by the UFC and ultimately try to re-ignite a fire that had once existed under those guys. I think that’s one of the things that set us apart,” Rebney told MMAWeekly Radio.
Rebney believes building up champions like they’ve done with fighters such as Michael Chandler, Pat Curran and Ben Askren is key to a promotion separating themselves from the competition.
Still, it can’t be ignored that if a truly talented fighter is available, Bellator would be remiss if they didn’t jump at the chance to sign somebody like they did after former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal was released from the promotion earlier this year.
“That’s going to stay our focus, but look at King Mo Lawal, when a guy like that becomes available and we are able to get into a bidding war and ultimately win on a guy like King Mo, and do a deal like we did with Dixie Carter (from TNA wrestling), that’s a no brainer,” said Rebney.
He also pointed to former UFC and Strikeforce contender Renato “Babalu” Sobral as a sterling example of a fighter too good to pass up on just because he had already fought in those other promotions.
The possibility remains open for Bellator to sign some of the fighters left over after Strikeforce officially shutters its doors in about 48 hours, but don’t expect a mass exodus of fighters to compete there on Saturday and find a new home with Bellator on Sunday.
“The door is open to it, but there’s never like a lock in on it and say ‘hey, we’re going to do that for sure.’ You look at it on a case by case basis, you see where a guy fits in and if he’s got the right fit for the organization, and if so there aren’t any handcuffs on us doing something like that. You could see it,” Rebney stated.
“As Strikeforce disbands, as a lot of us have known and thought was going to happen for a long time, we’ll see what happens and we’ll see who’s available.”