Immediately following the release of top ten welterweight Jon Fitch, mixed martial arts fans were hopeful that the former title contender would find a home with the No. 2 organization in the world — Bellator. The hope was that Fitch would get a few fights and work his way towards a shot at current Bellator champion Ben Askren.
Unfortunately for fans of the sport, Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney shut down the speculation right off the bat.
“I have a lot of respect for Jon and I have a lot of respect for anyone who has to courage to do what these guys do and the athletic ability to do what they do,” said Rebney. “But we are not going to be signing Jon Fitch.”
“We have a stacked welterweight division right now. We have a lot of guys that we are developing that we anticipate are going to be world class fighters and break the top ten. We want to keep guys busy. We want to keep guys inside the cage and we have a plan in terms of the next year and who is going to be apart of the tournaments and it’s just not the time.”
“There is no hard and fast line in the sand with us. ‘King Mo’ Lawal came out of Strikeforce. He is one of my favorite fighters fighting in our organization. He is wildly exciting and awesomely talented. Ben ‘Killa B’ Saunders is another example and is fighting for us tonight. He came out and lost two straight in the UFC when we signed him. I just liking watching him fight. I love the knees and I love the clinch game and I thought he was exciting, so we signed him. There will be others like that. There will be other guys that get released from the UFC and it’s not a hard and fast rule.”
It is not the hope that fans of the sport had, but it’s part of the business side of the sport. Bellator is not looking to be the place where UFC castaways go. They are looking to build up their own stars with their tournament format and it is hard to argue their strategy.
Bellator is doing very well in the UFC’s shadow and we don’t expect to see them decline any time soon, even without Fitch.