Bellator’s sixth season kicks off this weekend with Bellator 60. The good news is for Bellator is they won’t have a single UFC or Strikeforce event to run against for six weeks. The bad news is they will have to compete against The Ultimate Fighter Live on FX each Friday night which will also include live fights.
I’m going to include a list of events and the current cards below, but before I get to that there’s a few news items I’d like to note.
— Eddie Alvarez’s long-awaited rematch with Shinya Aoki is finally official. The fight is scheduled to go down on April 20 in Cleveland at Bellator 66. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney recently described how difficult it was to book that fight in an interview with MMA Mania.
Yeah, it only took me three and a half years. (laughs) I felt pretty good about that. If you put in the time, I think if we billed that one out on an hourly basis, i was making like 5-6 dollars an hour for that one. I tried to live up to what I promised and Ed Alvarez asked me literally three and a half years ago, he said, “Can you give me a rematch?” and Ed’s been so important to the growth of this company and he’s been with us and a fantastic face of the organization along with the likes of other fighters that we’ve got under contract but man, Ed was the first big contract ever made and I promised I would get him the fight and based on Strikeforce coming out of the dynamic they were in and substantially changing their direction and no longer being engaged in Japan and no longer where they once were, Dream became more available to work with and that alliance didn’t exist anymore.
I was able to talk to the people at Dream and put things together. Moreso than anything, I was happy to be able to honor the commitment to a guy who’s as good of a guy as Ed Alvarez and get that fight done for him. I’ve got an amazing amount of respect for his courage and his confidence. He lost his title in dramatic fashion and boy, instead of looking for an easy fight back or a soft road to get back in the mix, Ed said, “I want to get the best you can get me,” and I said, “Do you still want the Aoki fight? It’s close,” and he said, “Absolutely.” There was never a moment’s hesitation in that guy’s voice so he’s just a class act and a great fighter and a great dude. It should be an epic fight.
Rebney is still very interested in re-signing Alvarez. He understand though that if Alvarez beats Aoki, his value in the marketplace will increase and make him that much more difficult to re-sign. It’s pretty clear that Rebney understands Alvarez could end up leaving for another promotion.
— Eddie Alvarez isn’t the only key Bellator fighter Rebney has to worry about re-signing. Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard is also nearing the end of his contract. Rebney confirmed with MMA Mania that they are currently in the middle of a negotiation period with Lombard, but it is possible he could hit the open market if they can’t come to terms before the period runs out.
Well, Hector remains our champion right now. We are in the midst of a pretty substantial negotiation relative to his future with the organization. I’ve said many times I think he’s the best middleweight in mixed martial arts so it’s not an easy negotiation by any stretch of the imagination. Alexander Shlemenko, who has earned the right to face our champion, has been prepping for that fight for over a year, has been to a certain extent caught in the crossfire and he’s not the beneficiary of these negotiations.
We’re in a state now where we’ve got to negotiate with Hector and potentially resign him. People forget, Hector Lombard and Ed Alvarez have been with this organization now for four years so you lose track of it because our initial distribution platform was ESPN Deportes and Fox Sports Net and it’s been a long build up but Ed and Hector have been with us from the very start. You know, all good things come to an end at some point and four years is a very long time on any kind of agreement.
We’ve got the right to match on any deal. We’re either gonna sign him before he goes out the to marketplace or he’s going to go out to the marketplace and we’re gonna have a determination as to whether we’re gonna match or not match and we’re gonna see where it ends up. I love the guy and he’s an awesome talent. He’s been nothing but a pure pleasure for me to work with. He’s been a great guy for me to work with and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and every time I’ve put him in a cage, he’s knocked people silly. You can’t really ask for more than that from a guy.
If Bellator isn’t able to re-sign him, it definitely looks like they’ll have competition if/when he becomes a free agent. UFC president Dana White recently expressed interest in signing Lombard should he become available.
“I guess he’s pretty popular down here. I’ve been hearing all about him since I’ve been (in Australia). But, he’s under contract with somebody else – so we’ll see. I’ll probably end up with him. If he wants to fight in the UFC, then we’ll probably end up with him.”
— Recently crowned lightweight champion Michael Chandler has been booked in a non-title fight against Japanese MMA veteran Akihiro Gono at Bellator 67 on May 4.
— Bjorn Rebney says Viacom is already gearing up for Bellator’s big move to Spike TV next year. They’re already investing time and money into the production and fighter promotion and expects they’ll hit the ground running at the start of 2013.
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