Photo: GLORY Sports International

Two-time GLORY featherweight champion, Gabriel Varga (13-4) has signed a four-fight contract with Bellator Kickboxing.

“I think Bellator Kickboxing has the potential to grow into something great and I’m very excited to be back on Spike TV,” Varga told MMA Plus about the new deal.

GLORY renewal falls through due to unsatisfactory financial terms

Varga, 31, last fought for GLORY in October, losing his title by TKO to Robin van Roosmalen at GLORY 34, which was the last fight of a two-fight contract.  The Canadian fighter, who first fought for GLORY in 2013, was first approached about renewing his deal back in July, he said, but chose to finish out that contract before making a decision on the future. When his contract was up in October, he turned down an offer from the promotion to renew his deal and was free to test the open market. He signed a new contract with Bellator, and GLORY, who had the rights to match any offer, chose not to do so.

“After the fight with Robin [van Roosmalen], they [GLORY] were talking to my managers, trying to re-sign me,” explained Varga. “We agreed on pretty much all the other terms: the length of the contract, the number of fights and all those sort of things.”

They just couldn’t come to an agreement on the financial terms of the deal, which ultimately led to the former champion’s exit. Varga said “he deserved to be paid like a champion” even though he no longer held the title, which according to him, wasn’t going to happen unless he had the strap around his waist.

“I felt like with GLORY everything for the big money relies on being the champion,” he said. “They had a good offer if I looked at it in the terms of you have to be the champion. I don’t want to sign a contract where making extra money is dependent on you being the champion. That is a hard thing to do. It’s impressive when you see guys like Georges St-Pierre and those guys who stay champion for so long. It’s hard enough winning the belt.”

The two-time GLORY featherweight champion delved into some of the other details about negotiations involving his former promotion.

“Because GLORY are upping their number of events [per year], their initial offer was actually four fights a year for two years,” he said. “So, an eight-fight contract is what they wanted to lock me down for. And I thought that was great and I was all for it, but If you are going to be locked in for that long you have to make sure you are going to be happy with the money. The priority now is to make this a career and make some money out of it. I had two other organizations that were offering more money and they had the opportunity to match and chose not to. So it was time to move on and make some more dollars.”

“There’s up and downs to every move you make in life,” he added. “This one had a few downs. I’ve always been really happy with GLORY. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. There were always little complaints I had, but overall they gave me a shot and I took the opportunity and did the best I could. I felt a little bit bad negotiating over money. The instinct to always be loyal is kind of there for me. They gave me my big shot. Without them I wouldn’t really have been here. But at the same time without the fighters they wouldn’t be anywhere. At the end of the day, it’s good to be loyal, it’s good to stick around, but not if it’s costing me thousands of dollars per fight.

Even though he received a more lucrative deal to fight for Bellator, Varga revealed it wasn’t a gigantic increase in pay. One of the main reasons he did sign, he says, is because he will now have a greater chance at increasing his income at a faster pace.

“The ironic part is it’s not a massive difference,” said Varga. “It’s not like one organization is offering 50 percent more. Realistically, it’s like 10 or 20 percent more. It’s not big dollars, but I noticed that with the Bellator contracts it seems there is more of a path to work your way up to being a higher-paid fighter. With GLORY it just seemed like a lot slower process. If I went, ‘I want to double the amount I’m making.’ It’s not happening in one contract. You’re talking two or three contracts. That’s two or three years down the road or something like that. I’ve been fighting now since like 2006. You want to make sure at this point you’e not like, ‘I’ll set myself up to make good money in six years or something.’ If somebody else has a good offer, you jump on it.”

Varga said Before choosing Bellator he also received offers from Chinese promotions, Glory of Heroes and Hero Legends. He has fought for the latter while under contract with GLORY and will be able to do the same while fighting for Bellator.

“Like I was with GLORY, I”m going to make Bellator my priority and if there is a little lull in-between fights and I want to be more active than I can choose one of the other Chinese organizations to fight for once or twice a year depending on how I feel,” he said.

“We worked that into the contract, making sure that it wouldn’t be a big deal and as long as the dates don’t clash that fighting in China won’t matter because they are not a threat to them and they just don’t care.”

Varga interested in a future transition to MMA

Photo: GLORY Sports International

While he was able to get the best possible financial deal for himself along with options to fight outside the promotion, Varga revealed one more clause to his new contract that was a major factor in his decision to sign on with Bellator: a future transition into MMA.

“I’ve been seriously considering MMA for a while now,” he said. “I have that worked into my contract as well with Bellator. It’s not anything that I have to do, but if I want to make the transition to MMA that option is there for me. Of course, I know that there is so much work to do to get ready for MMA. Unfortunately when you are training for a kickboxing fight it’s really hard to dedicate any time to your ground game. So what I’ve been doing over the past year is, in between fights, doing my ground work.”

Varga, who defeated Mosab Amrani at GLORY 20 back in 2015 to win his first GLORY title, said he began “thinking about MMA” after defeating Serhiy Adamchuk at GLORY 32 last July to win the featherweight title for a second time. He knows Bellator MMA is a “high level of MMA,” but that’s where he wants to be, he says.

“I don’t want to start off on anything small,” said Varga, who trains in jiu-jitsu under Matthew Kaiser, who is based in British Columbia.  “I have the striking. I just have to get the ground game down a little bit so I can get back to my feet and return to striking. That may happen in the next year or so. I feel I will be able to make the transition. It just takes time. You have to be patient and dedicated and make sure you don’t rush it. I’m going to make sure. I’m going to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments and all those sort of things beforehand  to make sure I’m confident and everything.”

Leaving on a loss is a “bit of a bummer,” Varga said. And not getting a rematch against van Roosmalen is the “only negative side” to leaving GLORY, he added. He also made a point to mention that he wishes to “leave everything on good terms” and will continue to “support” the promotion in the future.

Varga has sights set on Kevin Ross in Bellator

But how does he feel about the drop in competition at Bellator Kickboxing? The promotion launched just one year ago and doesn’t have anywhere near the stable of talented fighters that are currently in the GLORY featherweight division. He’s aware of the differences between the two promotions, but there is one opponent he would like to face that he’s had his eye on for several years now.

“The big thing about Bellator that I’m excited about is Kevin Ross,” he said. “I know that Bellator structures everything differently. They are taking their approach to kickboxing quite slowly. Whereas GLORY built up their organization, got fighters for each of their divisions and boom, they were going for it. It seems like Bellator is taking a few select fighters to focus on like Giorgio Petrosyan and Kevin Ross. They have John Wayne Parr and all those guys and they are finding opponents for them, sometimes bringing in high-level guys, but not always. I think they are getting ready to focus on some main fighters and I will be in there with an extended contract.

“I feel like if I asked them to bring some high-level guys, hopefully they can bring some guys in,” he continued. “Beating Kevin Ross would be a highlight of my career, or one of them because I’ve been trying to get that fight for three or four years. I’ve been looking forward to it for like four or five. If we can get that to happen I think it would be really good for kickboxing in North America.”

Varga says he has been training hard for the last three weeks and is hoping to get back in the ring “as soon as possible.” And he already has a strategy in place for his road to obtaining Bellator gold.

“All I plan to do is win a fight, ask for a title shot. If not, win another fight, ask for a title shot. And do whatever I need to do to get up there. Hopefully that will help bring some extra attention to the featherweight division in Bellator since I had the GLORY belt a couple of times. All I’ve ever wanted to do with my career after I had my opportunity and I felt like I proved myself–I wanted to help the sport grow, especially in Canada. We have good fighters here and they just need to recognize it. There is not only good fighters in Europe, there is good fighters in Canada. Simon [Marcus] and Joe [Valtellini], Josh [Jauncey] and myself have proved that. If I can go into another organization and get a belt, beat some guys from Europe, beat Kevin, it will continue to show everybody that there are good fighters in Canada and help the sport grow here.”