PFL has acquired Bellator and it is likely that soon fight fans will be seeing the end of Bellator MMA. Long considered the second most prestigious promotion in MMA, there were some who ridiculed Scott Coker’s promotion for not having the same depth of talent as the UFC. Yet, Bellator has had some truly world class fighters amongst its roster over the years. What better time than now to look back through them.
The Best of the Best: Bellator’s Top Talent
Making his MMA debut in 2006, Brazilian sensation Douglas Lima established himself as one of the top Welterweights on the planet with a meteoric rise throughout the MMA world. Winning the first of his three Bellator Welterweight championships in 2014 with a record of 26-5, Lima would further increase his reputation with wins over former UFC top stars Paul Daley and Lorenz Larkin. After Rory McDonald departed from the UFC, fans eagerly awaited to see the inevitable match-up that would surely occur with Lima. Losing a close fight, Lima would bounce back quickly with wins over Andrey Koreshkov and Michael “Venom” Page and would eventually get a rematch with McDonald, which he would win. Now in the twilight of his career at age 35, Lima is not the fighter he once was. Yet, it is essential to remember that there was a time when many considered him the most dangerous fighter outside of the UFC, and he was undoubtedly among the very best in the world at 170-lbs.
The current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion and a Fedor Emilianenko protege, Vadim Nemkov has established himself as one of the top Light Heavyweights in the world for some time now, with some even stating that he is the best 205er on the planet. Indeed, his resume backs this with a twelve-fight winning streak after two losses early on in his career. During this time, he has picked impressive victories over big names such as Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Corey Anderson, and most recently Yoel Romero. This longevity and remarkable CV, combined with the relatively weak state the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division has found itself in recent years, means that Nemkov has a genuine claim to being the best on the planet, evidenced by Sherdog ranking him as number one.
Consistently ranked among the greatest 145ers by all independent media outlets, Pitbull made his name across various weight classes, winning world titles at lightweight and featherweight. Pitbull is perhaps most remembered for dethroning Michael Chandler as Bellator’s 155-lbs. king. With four world championships and eight title defenses overall and tied with Michael Chandler for the most finishes in Bellator history, it is clear that the legacy of Pitbull is inextricably linked with the legacy of Bellator, and he is a prime example of a star purely created by Bellator.
Possibly the most high-profile name that Bellator has ever produced, Michael Chandler is now most known for his various fight-of-the-year contenders within the UFC, yet his name was made in Bellator. Iconic fights in the promotion against former UFC champions Eddie Alvarez and Benson Henderson made his name recognized in the MMA world. These fights elevated his career to new heights. Now with his profile in the UFC, Chandler has become one of the most marketable athletes in the entire sport, and his high-energy style of fighting, along with his explosive personality and fight callouts, has left him in a possible fight against Conor McGregor at UFC 300. A three-time lightweight world champion under Bellator, his performances and CV certainly back his popularity and fan appeal and have left him undoubtedly as one of the biggest stars in Bellator’s history.
Another man who would go on to accomplish great things in the UFC, Eddie Alvarez spent his athletic prime in Bellator, where he would accrue a 9-1 record. Alvarez would twice win the Bellator Lightweight title and establish himself as one of the best in the world. After his ten fights in the promotion, “The Underground King” would leave Bellator, moving on to the UFC, where he would accomplish great things, including winning a World title with a win over Rafael Dos Anjos. Consistently considered among the greatest lightweights of his generation, Eddie Alvarez is a true OG of the fight game and represents another shining example of Bellator creating a star from nothing.