Bellator are currently on the verge of signing UFC lightweight star Gilbert Melendez, and according to their CEO Bjorn Rebney there could well be more to come.
“We’re going after everybody, more-and-more often,” Rebney tells MMAfighting.com, adding later that, “You’re going to see much more of this as we move forward, guys coming from the smallest regions where we find undiscovered talent, to the superstars from the UFC and other guys we find in the United States.”
The Melendez deal could still fall through – the ball is currently in the UFC’s court as they have the right to match Bellator’s terms for the free agent – but if they are successful in signing him then he’ll join a number of other familiar faces from the Octagon including the likes of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz who now ply their trade in the sport’s second biggest promotion.
Melendez opted to talk to Bellator about a deal after his contract talks stalled with the UFC who were playing hardball with him, and the Viacom owned promotion have been able to entice him with a strong offer that includes a cut of any pay-per-view events as well as, “on-air opportunities” and “marketing opportunities behind-the-scenes” and other enticements.
As far as Rebney’s concerned the fact that Bellator are in a position to be able to cut such deals is good news for fighters in general.
“It’s far and away better for the fighters. When a fighter has one option, he has no power at the negotiating table. But when he has two options, the fighter has all the negotiating power. That’s actually counter intuitive, coming from the CEO of a fight company. But that’s the truth. And my checkbook may take a shot because of it. But if the fighters can earn what they feel they deserve, overall we and the sport will be in a better place.”
Rebney won’t be drawn at this stage on who their other targets are at this moment in time, though he teases that, “some of them you’d know by first name alone,” while also stressing that they do intend to continue to unearth their own homegrown talent too which has already helped them establish fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler as two of the top 10 lightweight fighters in the world.
Bellator’s 10th season premieres in less than two weeks time on Friday, 28th February on Spike TV.