Scott Coker had his work cut out for him when he took over the reigns with Bellator, but the UFC simply handing over top 10 talent is making his job much easier.
While, the UFC seems content to cut the shit out of their roster. It seems the decisions are being made from solely a financial perspective and with little regard for the rankings or performance. Bellator has been feasting on free agents for a while now, but never anything that was a loss to the UFC, or that drastically improved Bellator’s credibility in the sport. That is until recently…
The problem now is Bellator’s been scooping up relevant fighters. Fighters that sit in the top ten and have wins over top ranked fighters. It wasn’t a problem when the UFC was losing Cheik Kongo, Benson Henderson even Matt Mitrione, because they were all fighters on their way down. All were just about out of the top ten or at least relevance at the time they left. It was a much different feel when the UFC allowed Bellator to scoop up Phil Davis, Rory MacDonald, Lorenz Larkin and Ryan Bader those were major victories for Bellator.
Phil Davis was a mainstay in the light heavyweight top 10. Rory MacDonald has been a top three welterweight for a very long time. His only losses since 2010 came against Robbie Lawler and Steven Thompson. He holds a dominant victories over the current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and #3 ranked Damian Maia. He is still easily a top five welterweight. Lorenz Larkin had turned things around in his career going 4-1 in his last five with his last two wins coming against the current 5 and 6 ranked welterweights Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny. If you consider that the argument could be made that Bellator has added two of the top five welterweights in the world in MacDonald and Larking. Finally, Bellator just finalized the signing of light heavyweight Ryan Bader. Bader’s only two losses in his last ten came against the #1 ranked light heavyweight Anthony Johnson and #3 ranked Glover Teixeira. These four more so than all the others were huge for Bellator.
By no means has the signing of these four put Bellator on the same level as the UFC, but what it has done is drastically improved their product, opened up doors for big fights, brought plenty of eyes to their platform, allowed them the opportunity to promote their up and coming talent, fighters like AJ Mckee, Brent Primus, James Gallagher, Adam Piccolotti, Michael Page and the list goes on.
The best thing that could happen for Bellator would be for their homegrown talent to beat these fighters and pose the question: Does all the best talent really reside in the UFC? If they can make fans start to question that they will increase the stock of all their fighters and ultimately their brand.
The UFC seems to be content to release all kinds of top level talent to their competitors and Scott Coker seems content to scoop them up with a smile. We will have to see if this trend continues.