It has recently come to light that a number of Bellator fighters are now out of a contract. There are some huge names on the list, many of who are expected to either sign a new contract with the organisation or sign for another big promotion. We look at some of the names on the list and look at what could be next for these individuals.
Bellator fighters out of contract: Vinicius Zani, Joe Warren, Manny Vazquez, Shawn Bunch, Mike Kimbel, Ricky Bandejas, AJ Agazarm, Adel Altamimi, Adil Benjilany, Derek Campos, Daniel Crawford, Cris Lencioni, Jeremiah Labiano, Salim Mukhidinov, Mihail Nica, Haim Gozali, Richard Kiely, Ion Pascu, Mateusz Piskorz, David Rickels, Joe Schilling, Tuco Tokkos, Rafael Carvalho, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Rudy Schaffroth, Kristina Williams, Hatice Ozyurt as well as Pat Curran, Jon Fitch, and Rafael Lovato Jr confirmed as retiring.
From the list above, there are a number of names that stick out.
In all honesty, I doubt many people knew that former bantamweight and featherweight champion, Joe Warren was still under contract with Bellator. An ‘OG’ of Bellator, making his debut back in 2010, Warren has had a solid career. Despite this, without a win since 2017 and with back to back losses in 2018, Warren is out of contract with Bellator. What’s next for Warren? Nothing in the world of MMA for sure. He hasn’t competed since 2018 and at 43 it seems like it’s time to hang up the gloves. Maybe a place behind the desk for Bellator would be more appropriate, with a recognisable face for fans.
Ricky Bandejas shot to fame in his Bellator debut when he handed the brash, James Gallagher his first loss. Brutally knocking the Irishman out in the first round, Bandejas was suddenly the big time. Arguably, beating Gallagher was the worst thing that happened to the American. In his next two fights, he came up against Juan Archuleta and Patchy Mix. These two men are way above the skill level of Bandejas. Despite stopping his next two opponents, he’s failed in his most recent two bouts. Included in this was a 15 minute decision loss to Sergio Pettis. What should be next for Bandejas? There is certainly a future for him in the sport. At just 28 he still has time to learn. He’ll likely sign for CFFC again, the promotion that he competed in before Bellator.
Another familiar name is AJ Agazarm. Coming into the sport of MMA with a phenomenal BJJ background, Agazarm had the hype. It didn’t get off to the best of starts, losing his debut. He did then win three on the bounce but dropped his most recent bout to Cris Lencioni (who has also been cut). Don’t be surprised to see Agazarm sign for ONE Championship as we see fellow BJJ fanatic Gary Tonon doing well for ONE.
18 fight Bellator veteran Derek Campos has also lost his place on the roster. A mainstay since 2013, Campos has been a solid pick for Bellator. Featuring in both the 2014 lightweight tournament as well as the 2019 featherweight tournament, Campos certainly has the skill. Despite this, he is currently 1-5 in his at six, suffering four finish stoppages. What’s next for Campos? His career is winding down but at just 32 he could easily notch a few more victories on the local circuit and end his career with a few wins. He still has the name to be a pull for a local promotion but don’t expect him to be signed for a big promotion any time soon.
Not really a surprise, SBG‘s Kiely hasn’t had his contract renewed with Bellator. Entering the promotion coming off a loss, arguably the only reason Kiely was given a contract was due to his Irish connections. Debuting in Ireland, he scored a knockout victory on the preliminary card. He will certainly be remembered for getting knocked out by Michael ‘Venom’ Page courtesy of a flying knee. CageWarriors could await for Kiely, but more than likely a local Irish show is next for Kiely. Off the back of one or two wins on the local circuit we could see him return on an Irish heavy Bellator card, but don’t be surprised to never hear from him again.
A surprising name on the list is Ion Pascu. The SBG fighter is coming off the back of a victory at Bellator Euro Series 8. His Bellator record is 1-3, but with losses to Ed Ruth, Lorenz Larkin and Logan Storley, he’s certainly faced solid competition. At 38 years old, don’t be surprised to see Pascu finish his career in CageWarriors next.
The well know, Joe Schilling also hasn’t had his contract renewed. The kickboxer turned MMA fighter, turned kickboxer, turned MMA fighter holds a record of 4-6. Trading between kickboxing and MMA, Schilling hasn’t found a footing in MMA, constantly competing for Bellator Kickboxing throughout his career. Despite his past three bouts being in MMA, notching two wins and a loss, Schilling may be hanging up his MMA gloves for good. He was scheduled to face Curtis Millender at Bellator 249, however, he was denied a license and was pulled from the bout.
Arguably the biggest name not to have his contract renewed is Rafael Carvalho. The 16-5 former middleweight champion has competed for Bellator since 2014. Since losing the belt to Gegard Mousasi, he holds a record of 1-3. Competing at 205lbs hasn’t gone well for Carvalho either, going 0-2. Suffering a submission loss to champion, Vadim Nemkov as well as a decision loss to Alex Polizzi, has seen Carvalho dropped from Bellator. Expect Rafael Carvalho to compete on a local Brazillian card or a long shot could be to compete for ONE Championship in the future. At 34 time is running out for Carvalho, however.
‘Big Country’ has had an awful time of it during his Bellator career and realistically since his TUF victory back in 2009. Following three back-to-back victories in 2013, Nelson was cut from the UFC after going 3-6 in nine UFC bouts.
It started well for Nelson in Bellator, defeating Javy Ayala via decision. Since then, however, he is without a win. 1-5 is his shocking Bellator record. Yes, he’s fought some tough opposition, but the only reason his Bellator tenure lasted so long was due to him having a ‘name’ within the sport. What’s next for Nelson? Don’t be surprised to see him announce his retirement. The 44-year-old has nothing left to achieve in the sport. We could also see him in Bare Knuckle FC… because that’s where we tend to see retired MMA fighters these days.
Ah what was I saying about retired MMA fighters going to fight Bare Knuckle? Frank Mir is rumoured to have signed for BKFC. Similarly, David Rickles is a veteran of 21 Bellator fights but recently competed at BKFC 13, seemingly transitioning over to bare-knuckle full time.
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