Will Free Agency Take Both Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard from Bellator?

April 6, 2012
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Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 33
In the realm of baseball names like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays are synonymous with most sports fans, but if you’ve ever heard the name Curt Flood, he’s a player that helped change baseball forever.

In 1969, Flood challenged the status quo of the contracts in Major League Baseball, and although it took a few years, that ultimately led to free agency in the national pastime.

Free agency has become commonplace in every sport from football to baseball to basketball and even mixed martial arts.

For Bellator Fighting Championships, they are about to feel the bite of free agency for the first time in their four years of existence.

Former Bellator lightweight champion and arguably the face of Bellator, Eddie Alvarez, along with middleweight champion Hector Lombard, are both coming up to the end of their respective deals and now the organization has to get into the business of negotiating to keep two of their biggest and most popular stars.

“We’ve got two fights left. We’ve got the (Shinya) Aoki fight, then we’ve got one more after that,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAWeekly Radio about Alvarez’s contract. “The guy has been just unbelievably good and positive for this organization. He’s been good and positive for Bellator; he’s also been good and positive for the entirety of MMA. Much like our situation with Hector Lombard, right now Hector’s a little bit further along cause I signed him earlier than I signed Ed, but you remember Hector and Ed were signed in 2008.

“It’s coming up on four years and that’s the length of the deal when you win world titles and the extensions are done. We don’t have any champion’s clauses in our contracts, which locks guys in for life, so those contracts are going to come to an end. You’re going to have a brief exclusive negotiation period, and when that ends you’re going to have the right to match an offer that anybody else would make, and we’ve got the right to match.”

Currently, Alvarez is gearing up for his rematch with Shinya Aoki on April 20 in Ohio, and then he will have one more fight remaining on his Bellator deal. Obviously, Rebney would love to keep Alvarez, who has been one of the mainstays of the promotion for the past few years, but he also understands this is a business and all’s fair in love and money.

“We’ll see what happens in the Aoki fight, and we’ll see what happens in Ed’s last fight under the banner and then we’ll address the Ed situation, much like we’ve addressed the Hector situation,” Rebney explained.

“I’ve maintained really good relationships with both guys. I kept an open dialogue with both guys. I consider them both friends.”

As far as Hector Lombard goes, the reigning and defending Bellator middleweight champion, his contract situation is further along than Alvarez’s and they are hopeful to have a final decision made on him in the coming weeks.

Rebney approached the situation with Lombard as a friend as well as an employer because he understood that fighters are like any other worker. They need to go where they feel the best opportunity presents itself for them to succeed, whether that’s in Bellator or another promotion like the UFC.

“I had a sit down with Hector Lombard, this was about eight months ago, and we’re coming up on the end of our deal, but it’s getting closer and he asked me what’s going to happen. I said I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that 2012 is going to be an awesome, epic year for Hector Lombard. And whether it’s an awesome, epic year in the Octagon, or whether it’s an awesome, epic year at Bellator, I’m not sure. I can’t tell you how that’s all going to play out, but I can tell you it’s going to be a great year for you. You’re going to make a lot more money,” Rebney said.

“I would say we’ll know where the whole Hector thing falls out in very short order.”

Alvarez will have at least one more fight with Bellator beyond the bout coming up with Aoki in April, and then they will once again enter into a negotiating period with their former champion.

In a perfect world, of course Rebney would like to keep both fighters, but in the reality of the situation, he knows that may not happen.

“I’d love to keep them both,” said Rebney. “But I don’t know if that’s going to be how it all plays out.”

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  • I suppose Zuffa will outbid all and take both, which hurts MMA. Competition has always provided the best to Americans and the UFC is too big already.
    Notice you never see the “drama” in other organizations you see at Zuffa?

    • In American history competition in sports has never been good, merging leagues has been good. Whether its the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. they have all gotten bigger and better when they merged with competitors into a single organization where all the best played each other. One of the reasons I think boxing is hurt is because it has been unable to do the same.

      You honestly think Hector Lombard fighting Jesse Taylor and Trevor Prangley is whats good for the sport? Lets hope the UFC gets these two guys and more.

      • +1

        • Santz

          +2. Seriously, georgesperry? I guess you were up way too early to comprehend anything that makes actual sense. Most MMA fans want all the best fighters in one organization so we can see them fight each other and determine who actually is the best in the world and not just the best in the org. We just want to see the best fights. Stop trying to be one of these anti-UFC idiots cause you think it makes you cool and seem like some sort of hardcore MMA fan…you people remind me of stupid Emo kids that listen to depressing, crappy indie music cause “it’s cool” not to give in to mainstream material…lol!

  • This is likely the last chance for both of these guys to make a run at the UFC. Recent loss aside for Alvarez, both of them are pretty much at their peak and 3 years down the road when their contracts expire (if they were to re-up with Bellator) I doubt there would be much of an opportunity or interest from Zuffa.

    My prediction is that Lombard will go to the UFC and Zuffa will look to pick up Alvarez for Strikeforce to bolster that roster.

    Lombard vs. Palhares anyone?

    • phrankthetank

      Battle of the stumps? Alvarez going to strikeforce would give melendez a fight he’s wanted for years, but I doubt Alvarez would sign with strikeforce. There’s just not enough depth in that division

  • phrankthetank

    The UFC needs other promotions like pro sports need minor leagues. It gives fighters the opportunity to sharpen their teeth and develop as well as keeping the UFC from getting complacent. It also gives the UFC the ability to call fighters up to the big show. Lombard has been sharpening his teeth for long enough, time to see if he can hang with the big boys.

  • D-rail

    Send them both to Strikeforce for the sake of decent competetion. I would love to see Eddie challange Jose Aldo at 145, but would also like to see him challenge Gilbert@ 155. And Lombard in Strikeforce would be nice too.

  • bdono554

    chandler, Pat Curran, and Askren are much more interesting prospects but I’ll take what I can get.

  • Towers66

    Bellator already knows. Zuffa already has the checks written out and the contracts finely tuned to lock in Lombard. Alvarez….meh….we’ll see.

  • bonkerstheclownmcpickle

    The interesting thing has been how — up till now — there has been an absolute minimum amount of movement between the two promotions. You don’t have guys like Dan Henderson leaving the UFC to join Bellator and so forth. The biggest superstars of Bellator have stuck with them for a long time now. The two brightest stars in Bellator’s brief existence are Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard — no question about it.

    Alvarez lost some of his credibility as a top 5 lightweight when he lost to Chandler. SO MUCH is riding on the Shinya Aoki fight. Win that fight and the UFC will be keenly interested. Lose that fight and the UFC just sees a fighter who has lost two fights in a row.

    The X factor is the parent company of Bellator FC, Viacom. Viacom has deep pockets, but how much money are they actually willing to throw at Hector and Eddie? They need Bellator to succeed but they might not be willing to break the bank over it. Viacom has $22.8 billion in assets and nets about $2.1 billion per year. They have WAY more money than the UFC. So if Viacom sees this as a priority, then they can probably offer Hector Lombard more money than the UFC can — but will they?

    Both Alvarez and Lombard likely want to fight in the UFC. When you are a top fighter, you want to fight the best and that means the UFC. The only MMA fans that DON’T want to see both of them in the UFC are Zuffa haters. Having the best in the world fighting the best in the world is a good thing. We’ll see how it plays out.