Bellator have announced they've signed UFC Hall of Famer, Stephan Bonnar to a multi-fight, to the surprise of critics and fans alike.
Despite some mumblings last week that suggested the two sides were working on a deal, the news still came as a surprise to many, who thought Bonnar was retired for good.
The 37 year-old American fighter last fought in October 2012, where he lost to Anderson Silva at UFC 153 and it was announced by Dana White that Bonnar had retired, a couple weeks later.
Why bring back Bonnar?
The decision to bring Bonnar back has met with a lot of confusion, but Bellator President, Scott Coker was more than excited with the addition of the light heavyweight legend.
"Stephan is a guy that has been a huge part of this sport and we are excited have him part of the roster. He was one half of probably the greatest and one of the most important fights in MMA history, and it happened on Spike. When you look at our light heavyweight division, with names like Rampage, Tito, King Mo, Emanuel Newton and others, there are a lot of fights Stephan can be involved in. Big fights against big names. After talking to Stephan, I know that’s what he wants, and we want to provide that to our fans." He said in a statement today.
While he is an MMA legend, there's a lot more cons than pros for the decision.
Bonnar is a two-time drugs cheater, failing tests in his rematch with Forrest Griffin at UFC 62 and in his clash against Silva at UFC 163.
At a time when the UFC is under pressure from all angles in order to try and combat drugs cheats, Bellator deciding to bring one of the sports most well-known cheats isn't going to help the company's image.
Then there's the loss of stars like Eddie Alvarez, who was the Bellator Lightweight champion, who left for the UFC in order to advance his career.
With two UFC Hall of Famers, Bonnar and Ortiz, on their books, as well as 'has beens' like Rampage, it's only going to amplify the companies image as a UFC testing ground/retirement home.
It doesn't give them much room for growth if they're just relying on old, but proven, names selling their tickets, rather than build their own talent because they fear the fighters will leave them.
So who does Bonnar fight?
Based on his comments after the news, it seems as if Bonnar will face off against fellow Hall of Famer, Tito Ortiz.
The two had a public spat after Ortiz criticised the induction of Bonnar into the Hall of Fame, after White said both he and Forrest Griffin helped rejuvenate the sport and take it to that next level.
When hasn't been confirmed but in the statement released by Bellator, Bonnar is quoted as saying: ""I want everyone to know I'm coming out of retirement because it's time to free the MMA world of the virus that's known as Tito Ortiz. We've been suffering through his boring fights for too many years, and it's about time that someone beats it out of him once and for all."
A grudge match between the two old-timers is likely to sell tickets to passive fans, but it won't appeal much to diehard fans, who instead will see it just as two men risking their lives for another payday - rather than protect themselves.
There will be some symbolism in the fight for Bonnar though. His UFC career started on Spike TV with the Ultimate Fighter, where he gained his fame, and his next fight, possibly his last, will also place on Spike TV.
Let's hope he can go out on a bang.
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