There have been multiple reports that Bellator is in financial trouble. They lack a television deal for season four. Zuffa’s lawsuit does not help. Financial backers are apparently ready to bail on them. There are millions of possibilities of how things could go down if there was a collapse of Bellator. A company like Zuffa or Strikeforce could purchase them and inherit contracts or the fighters could hit the free agency market. Suppose that the fighters all became free agents who would be the hot targets for promotions like UFC and Strikeforce to go after. Here are the top 20…
(Note: I did not include women fihgters liek Megumi Fujii or Zoila Frausto because there is still little demand for women fighters).
1. Hector Lombard – He would be the most highly sought after guy in Bellator. While he could very well go to Strikeforce and contend right away for the title, the best competition is in the UFC.
2. Eddie Alvarez – Perhaps the Melendez fight could happen this way. For some reason I am reluctant to believe Alvarez would go to UFC. However, that is the best fights outside of Melendez.
3. Joe Warren – There is no other option for a solid 145er outside the UFC if Belaltor falls. He has hopes of the 2012 Olympics which would mean he would sit out of MMA for a while. At his age he may be done in the elite promotions if he goes that route.
4. Ben Askren – Not the most exciting fighter, but perhaps one of the best wrestlers in MMA. He would draw interest from several places. He may be in over his head in the UFC.
5. Cole Konrad – He hasn;t shown himself to be dominant or exciting, but Konrad’s wrestling could be a threat to anyone. Lesnar’s training partner would be a solid add to the UFC and if brought along the right way he could be a contender.
6. Lyman Good – Okay, he lost to Askren, but he is still solid. I think he could compete in the UFC, but likely couldn’t contend.
7. Patricio Freire – This guy is a dark horse. He beat Joe Warren in my opinion. He could be a real threat to Aldo at 145.
8. Dan Hornbuckle – Some of the allure is lost following a loss in Bellator, but he could be a solid add to any promotion. I like the Strikeforce fit. Hornbuckle vs. Diaz would be a good opportunity for him.
9. Rick Hawn – A judo Olympian who is 1-0 in Bellator. He nearly signed with Zuffa and if a collapse happened I see no better place for Hawn.
10. Bryan Baker – The WEC veteran is a great fighetr. He’s still young. He has a great story as he battles cancer. I like Baker a lot.
11. Zack Makovsky – He could be ranked higher but the bantamweights just don;t draw interest like others. I guess UFC is the only real option for him if Bellator dies.
12. Alexander Schlemenko – Who knows how a Russian will react to free agency. Probably Strikeforce. He is gutsy and put on a good performance against Lombard.
13. Ulysses Gomez – A solid bantamweight who could be the face of a future UFC 125 lb division.
14.Wilson Reis – A solid veteran who is a former EliteXC champ. Look for Zuffa to have interest as well as Japan.
15. Pat Curran – The lightweight tournament winner who never got his shot against Alvarez. He could be a legit prospect.
16. Jim Wallhead – He failed to make the welterweight tournament due to weather problems, but Wallhead is a force to be reckoned with.
17. Chris Lozano – A solid welterweight prospects who has heavy hands.
18. Damian Grabowski – I am not high on Grabowski as his wrestling needs improvement to compete in America. Back to Europe.
19. Joe Soto – His career may be done due to an eye injury, but he is young and I expect him to return. He is a good fighter with room for growth.
20. Eric Larkin – The former ASU wrestler could join college teammates Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader and C.B. Dolloway in the UFC.