Recognizable names have always been a common target for smaller promotions. With a growing roster, Bellator wants to combine young talent alongside popular fighters. There shouldn’t be any resentment towards Bellator in trying to add ex-UFC fighters. They’ve generated surprising success off it by having Quinton “Rampage” Jackson headline Bellator’s first ever pay-per-view.
Despite Bjorn Rebney doing a poor job of promoting the pay-per-view, it still managed to crack the 100,000 buy-rate barrier that nobody expected them to do. While the likes of Jackson and Tito Ortiz are clearly past their prime, die-hard fans of them still exist and want to see them compete. Another popular fighter that can be added to the list is Stephan Bonnar,
Bonnar officially signed with Bellator yesterday, which wasn’t much of a surprise given the recent rumors. It still remains to be an odd move, considering Bonnar was one of the true pioneers for the UFC’s emergence. His classic battle against Forrest Griffin will never be forgotten in the realm of history. After that fight and Dana White’s loyalty to him, it seemed certain that he would have an office job forever for the UFC.
That loyalty ended when Bonnar tested positive for anabolic steroids for the second time in his career. To make matters worse, the positive test came after a main event against Anderson Silva at UFC 153. He lost his analyst job on FUEL TV and the UFC was left no choice in distancing themselves from him. One of the more beloved fighters in UFC history had been ostracized from their programming.
His usage of steroids is obviously a red flag in acquiring him. There will be major questions throughout his training camp and after the fight itself about him being clean. He hasn’t fought in nearly two years, so questions will arise about how he’ll recover on a daily basis from training without using illegal supplements. The other questions will be about the direction of where Bellator is headed.
We’re aware that there will be less events and less tournaments in the future. It’s been clear that Scott Coker will allow disgruntled fighters out of their contract, such as Eddie Alvarez. Coker has let fighters that are past their prime go, such as Phil Baroni. Everything seemed fresh about the new Bellator regime, until now with the signing of Bonnar.
It’s hard to believe that a 37-year-old can bounce back from such a long layoff to be even semi-successful. Before his loss to Silva, he had also been off for nearly a year after defeating Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 139. While Bellator doesn’t exactly have world-class light heavyweights, does the signing of Bonnar pose anything more than just a nostalgic moment?
There have been grumblings about him fighting Ortiz, due to their hatred towards one another. Both fighters have taken shots at each other over the years. If the fight actually occurs, it would be between two fighters, who have fought only one time combined since 2013. That is beyond bizarre, which is why this goes back to Coker’s regime of trying to make Bellator a more attractive product.
While showcasing big names should have some magnitude, many people wouldn’t take Ortiz versus Bonnar seriously. The non-stop questions from Ortiz making it through a training camp without getting injured to Bonnar fighting clean would be overbearing. Bellator’s light heavyweight division is one of their better divisions with an honorable champion like Emmanuel Newton. Then they have popular fighters such as Jackson, Ortiz, and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
In terms of name value, that division is essentially set. Now they have added Bonnar to boost viewership even more and attract older fans. That’s a sizable risk, especially in comparison to Ortiz. With the addition of Ortiz, he’s managed to make Bellator cancel their first pay-per-view due to getting injured. Then he easily submitted one of their more promising champions in Alexander Shlemenko in a “super-fight.” Can they honestly say that Ortiz has been a positive acquisition? So far he’s had one fight in one year for them. That makes me believe not.
While it may be disappointing to some that Bonnar is the latest UFC Hall Of Famer to jump ship to Bellator, you can’t fault him for wanting to make more money. There is only so much you can make in being a color commentator for Titan FC. His legacy has already been deteriorated from his failed drug tests. There is no risk for him, even if Ortiz manhandles him.
The risk comes from Coker in allowing a 37-year-old fighter, who hasn’t fought in about two years to possibly be a significant part for a future event. Does he want to risk turning fans off in having Bonnar look significantly old, along with the questions of him fighting clean? This is supposed to be a new regime, where fresh competitive fights would be announced. We’ve seen great signings with the likes of Paul Daley and Melvin Manhoef coming into Bellator.
Bonnar does offer potential in possible reality shows or being an analyst. Nobody can deny his value at analyzing or promoting fights. His work as a color commentator for the WEC was excellent. There aren’t many fighters that remain as charismatic as him. If Bellator can utilize him in an analyst role or something involving promotion, that would benefit them significantly.
The signing of Bonnar as a fighter carries a lot of unnecessary risk, especially in a fight against Ortiz. Two past their prime fighters would only likely merit interest towards either die-hard fans or fans whom love spectacles. Bellator is still in the process of finding their identity in exploiting upcoming talent, current champions, and prominent names. We can only hope that they figure out a way to utilize Bonnar into that mixture without him putting on an abysmal performance in a major spot or failing another drug test.