The Ultimate Fighting Championship's Middleweight division took a big hit this week as the major MMA organization let yet another top fighter slip away from them and jump ship over to the Bellator family. Former Strikeforce and Dream Light Heavyweight champion, Gegard Mousasi amassed a 9-3 record and ranked as high as #4 in the UFC before now re-uniting with Strikeforce founder and current Bellator president, Scott Coker.
Mousasi continues a trend that has began to grow somewhat popular over the recent years since Scott Coker has taken over as the Bellator front man. That trend being top UFC fighters leaving for their competitor in Bellator. It began back in April of 2015 with top Light Heavyweight, Phil Davis who made the jump and eventually became the Bellator Light Heavyweight champion(only to lose it very recently to fellow ex-UFC fighter, Ryan Bader). Since then there have been several other big name acquisitions for Bellator from the UFC, ranging from the likes of Rory MacDonald to Benson Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Lorenz Larkin.
Competition in sports is always a good thing. Specifically in the MMA world, options outside of one outlet have always been something fans have thoroughly enjoyed. Whether you look back at the Pride Fighting Championships days or to the more recent times of Strikeforce and World Extreme Cagefighting, all time periods that seem to have brought the most memories and many of debates of hypothetical match ups. But how much longer will the UFC continually...albeit unintentionally, aid the growth of their main competitor?
The UFC surely hasn't been wanting to lose all of this talent that they have over the recent years. Something will need to change if they want to keep it though. Bellator's offers have for the most part always been more satisfactory to meet the fighters needs. Surely this may come to a surprise to most casual viewers or those that only really know about the UFC when it comes to MMA organizations. The Reebok deal has been often brought up as a...if not the biggest hindrance for the fighters. As in a recent article by Flo Combat Mousasi states:
"The Reebok deal is stealing money from the fighters. I make OK money, I'm comfortable. A lot of fighters don't make that so they rely on the sponsors. Once you cut eighty percent of their check, of course no one is satisfied with Reebok. The fighters certainly are not. I can say that now because I'm not associated with Reebok. I can say the truth."
If you look at the UFC's current Light Heavyweight division and compare it to Bellator's now with the addition of Gegard Mousasi, you can very well argue that Bellator's is now better if not on par with them. At first glance, it may not be so easy to agree with such an argument but as time goes on and the Bellator staples compete with the UFC veterans it will paint a brighter picture as to how much closer it really is. Ryan Bader and Phil Davis are already two of the very best Light Heavyweights in the world and proved that in the UFC and continue to prove it in Bellator. Then you look at other's such as "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal who was a former Strikeforce champion. Although he has yet to capture Bellator gold in his time with the organization, he has still been one of the best and is likely going to get another shot at the gold in his next outing. Throwing someone like Mousasi into this mix along with other names like Linton Vassell, Liam McGeary and Chael Sonnen certainly make for some interesting match ups. Mousasi is also open to fighting at Heavyweight and of course, back at Middleweight which gives him endless possibilities when it comes to intriguing match ups across three divisions.
The UFC 205 lb division has always been "the golden division" and one that the fans have always loved for a long time and had many fighters and champions have delivered unforgettable fights, moments, and performances over the years. But things have changed tremendously over time and the division is desperate for some new stars and prospects to emerge. Since UFC 182 on January 3rd of 2015, only four men have fought over the UFC Light Heavyweight strap. Those men being current champion, Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, the former long time champion, Jon Jones and recently retired Anthony Johnson. All of these men have fought each other at least once already except for Anthony Johnson who never fought Jon Jones but was supposed to at UFC 187...that is until Jon Jones got into his legal troubles and was stripped of the title and suspended. Essentially when looking at the 205 lb weight class you're only looking at the top 3 guys when it comes to legit title threats. This is of course not to say that fellow top 5ers, Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir are not good fighters or capable of becoming threats. But the current gap between them and Cormier, Jones, Gustafsson is rather noticeable. As the UFC continues to lose top fighters and no prospects emerge, we could end up seeing rematch after rematch or no title changes at the top of one of MMA's most legendary divisions for who knows how long.
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