In a somewhat surprising move Bellator have signed up 41 year-old former UFC veteran Houston Alexander.
Alexander will fight another former UFC fighter in his forties who’ll be making his Bellator debut, Valdimir Matyushenko at the promotion’s 99th event on September 13th.
‘The Assassin’ is known for being a heavy-handed striker who wasn’t quite able to make the grade in the UFC, eventually bowing out with a 2-4 record after a lackluster loss to Kimbo Slice in late 2009.
Since then his form inside the cage has continued to be something of a mixed bag, going 6-4 (1nc) fighting for a range of smaller promotions including KSW, RFA and Shark Fights.
It’s interesting to note Bellator’s complete reversal in signing policy since moving over to Spike TV. For a number of years Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney had a policy of building homegrown stars like Michael Chandler, Eddie Alvarez and Pat Curran while making a point to avoid UFC cast-offs, but it seems that Viacom’s influence has changed all that.
Of course Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz are the most high-profile examples of this, but Alexander is the latest in a series of aging veterans being signed to the Bellator roster.
Time will tell if it proves to be a successful strategy or not. On the positive side it might appeal to casual fans tuning in on Spike TV to see familiar names from when the UFC used to be on the channel. However, the obvious negative is that it does give the impression that Bellator are now resorting to picking up the UFC’s hand-me-downs which reduces their credibility somewhat.
One of Bellator’s biggest strengths has been their consistent knack of putting on exciting, fast-paced bouts and I suspect a lot of that is down to the fact they’ve had a lot of young, hungry, talented fighters eager to make an impression in their tournaments. The risk now is that they are starting to import the type of fighters who lack that youthful enthusiasm, are perhaps past their best and are just seeking a few last paydays before hanging up their gloves for good leading to sub-par performances.
We already saw that last season with one of their better known signings Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral losing twice by TKO in the Bellator cage before announcing his retirement at the age of 37, and there could be more to follow by the end of this coming season.
It’s not all negative though. For me their best signing from the UFC so far has been featherweight fighter Diego Nunes. He hit a little bit of a rough patch in the UFC, but he’s a skilled fighter and at 30 years of age he’s still got plenty of life left in him and should be a significant player in their upcoming tournament.
Having said that, he’s up against Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire in the quarter-finals which will be a tough first fight. Incidentally, Nunes Vs Freire will now headline Bellator 99 with Matyushenko Vs Alexander serving as the co-main event.