When Phil Davis and Josh Thomson left the UFC as free agents to sign with Bellator, many in the MMA community were completely surprised. After fellow UFC standouts Benson Henderson and Rory MacDonald followed suit, the idea of top 10 fighter’s signing with Bellator became a far more palatable decision for both fighters and fight fans alike.
Once former Strikeforce president Scott Coker took over operations for Bellator in 2014, the thought of Bellator as a potential ‘new’ Strikeforce to compete with the UFC seems more and more realistic.
Josh Thomson, who fought for Coker under the Strikeforce banner and now fights for him with Bellator, spoke exclusively to BJPENN.com Radio on the subject of this promotional landscape and how top 10 talent in MMA will be spread out more evenly in time:
“UFC doesn’t have all of the best fighters anymore, they’re no longer in just one place, one organization. They’re all spread out, that’s how it was with Strikeforce. Look at how many Strikeforce fighters that eventually became UFC champions.”
“When we (Strikeforce fighters) all got to the UFC, we just cleaned house. And we did that by making each other better stronger. We fought harder against each other. We just motivated one another to become better fighters. That’s exactly what’s gonna happen with Bellator.
“(Bellator) will eventually end up having the better fighters.”
“Even now, if you take their lightweight division and our lightweight division. Let’s say you take four or five of the UFC’s best lightweights and four or five of Bellator’s best lightweights, I bet we do better than them. I bet you we beat them. Chandler matched up great with Eddie (Alvarez) in their (Bellator) fights.”
“I got guys in the 145 division all the way to the 170 pound division calling me out. By Bellator signing Benson and myself, along with Rory (MacDonald) and others, we’re making these guys motivated to be better fighters. Now they have a chance to compete against the best, make names for themselves.”
Strikeforce was sold to the UFC back in 2013 and most if not all the top talent eventually came over to fight in the Octagon. Once former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney was essentially ousted from his position, Coker took over and only then did fight fans really begin to see top MMA talent signing with the Spike-based promotion.
Do you agree with Josh Thomson’s assessment on Bellator’s talent? Will Bellator eventually rival Strikeforce in competing with the UFC? Sound off in the comments section, PENN Nation!