With the recent influx of fighters switching promotions from the UFC to Bellator, here’s a rundown of some of those who have made headlines in the MMA community.
Former UFC Welterweight title challenger, Rory MacDonald made the jump from the UFC to Bellator in late 2016. After amassing a respectable record in what’s considered the elite MMA establishment, the Canadian felt it was time to seek pastures new. MacDonald lost his last two contests in the UFC to former champ Robbie Lawler and recent two-time title contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson respectively. Before that, however, he had only lost one fight in the UFC, winning nine. He’ll no doubt be looking to avoid losing three straight when he takes on formidable Brit, Paul Daley, in his Bellator debut on May 19, live from the SSE Arena in London.
Former UFC Lightweight champ, Benson Henderson was one of the first high-profile fighters to make the transition to the rival promotion, joining in early 2016. Henderson cited the much maligned UFC/Reebok partnership as one of the main reasons why he left the company to join its bitter competitor. Henderson is not the only former UFC fighter to object to the Reebok deal. Many have questioned the pay they receive from the renowned sportswear manufacturer and have stated they received more from third-party sponsors. Henderson has since fought twice for Bellator gold, once at Welterweight and once at Lightweight, and although he wasn’t successful on either occasion, he is still an asset to the organisation having been a former champion in two separate organisations (UFC and WEC).
Ryan Bader won The Ultimate Fighter 8 competing at Light Heavyweight back in 2008. Since then he has only fought for the UFC. However, nine years after joining the promotion Bader saw out the remaining fight on his contract and tested the free agency market. On March 21, 2017, he announced that he had joined the ever-expanding Bellator roster. With wins over the likes of current Bellator alumni, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, Phil Davis (both whilst fighting for the UFC), Bader will be an interesting addition to the division. Bader has an impressive professional MMA record of 22 wins with only five losses and is slated to fight King Mo at the highly publicised Bellator 180 card, from Madison Square Garden on June 24.
Lorenz Larkin has previous with Bellator President, Scott Coker, working closely with him back in the Strikeforce era. It was of no surprise the two joined forces once more when Larkin signed with Bellator in early 2017. In his debut fight with the company, Larkin will challenge for the Welterweight title as he takes on current champ, Douglas Lima, at the aforementioned Bellator 180 card in New York City. Larkin has notable wins over former UFC Welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler, and highly ranked Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny (his last two fights in the UFC), and many were surprised with their decision to allow him to leave.
Once regarded as one of the most promising young prospects in the UFC’s Bantamweight division, Michael “Mayday” McDonald joined the Bellator ranks on March 24, 2017. The former title challenger cited “trust issues” as one of the motivating factors behind his move to the rival promotion. At 26 years old, McDonald has an impressive professional MMA record of 17 wins and four losses and has wins over the likes of Miguel Torres, Brad Pickett and Cole Escovedo. After a tumultuous last couple of years nursing multiple injuries, and losing his last fight via KO, McDonald will be looking to get back on the right track with his new employer.
Is the UFC’S loss Bellator’s Gain?
Bellator’s recent noteworthy and respectable acquisitions have undoubtedly strengthened and deepened their talent pool. It’s hard to argue that they are now not a serious threat to the UFC. Especially when you take into account the current UFC/Reebok deal that has taken third-party sponsorship’s away from their fighters and therefore hampered their earning potential from multiple endorsements (something Bellator does not implement). This sudden wave of talent leaving or being let go has also coincided with the change in ownership of the UFC, with both current and former fighter’s voicing their frustrations with the regime. It should also be noted that many of the above fighters were ranked in the top ten of their respective divisions at the time they were let go by the UFC, and their decision to let them leave the company in the midst of such change is as baffling as it is unwise.