Bellator CEO Scott Coker has expressed surprise that the UFC have let high-profile stars like Yoel Romero and Anthony Johnson go recently, but after signing them up he’s more than happy with how things have turned out.
“You’re talking about a couple of guys that really made a difference in their division,” Coker told MMA Fighting. “I’m surprised they didn’t want to keep them. To me, it’s a great opportunity for us.
“To be honest, I think we’re a better fit for those guys. They’ll have a great home here. I think they’re going to be extremely happy here. A couple of the guys that I talked to, they wanted to make the move. They wanted to come to Bellator. People see when they get here how we treat the fighters and how it’s a family atmosphere. Yes, it is a business so we run like a business but it’s really run a lot different than other organizations.”
With Corey Anderson being another major recruit from the UFC, Coker feels Bellator has become a distination of choice for leading fighters, and it’s left them with a stacked 205lb division.
“At the end of the day, I think the fighters wanted to be here,” Coker continued. “They made the move to be here. I think each one of those guys had different circumstances with their past employer and I don’t think that they wanted to take this fight or that fight and some ultimatums were thrown around is what I heard. It just didn’t work out.
“Too bad for them, good for us and now look at that light heavyweight division we have..”
Bellator certainly do have an impressive 205lb roster these days, with Romero, Johnson and Anderson fitting in very nicely alongside the likes of current champion Vadim Nemkov, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis and Lyoto Machida.
Aside from Nemkov, all those fighters have jumped over from UFC in recent years, and it’s undeniably taken it’s toll on the light-heavyweight roster they’ve left behind.
That being said, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya stepping up to fight current 205lb UFC titleholder Jan Blachowicz has added some extra spice to the weight class, while the likes of Aleksander Rakic and Jiri Prochazka are bringing a fresh feel to the UFC’s top 10 alongside more established fighters like Glover Teixeira, Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes.
Nevertheless, it is still curious that the UFC has been willing on a number of occasions now to let leading 205lb talents leave to join their biggest rival, and with a light-heavyweight grand-prix now rumored to be in the works, Bellator now appear to be in a position to take full advantage of the gains they’ve made in that weight class.