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.”