Benson Henderson’s decision to fight out his contract to test the free agency market has led him to Bellator MMA, and Bellator President Scott Coker said on Monday that he’s expecting them to be in play for many more fighters before the year is out.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Coker said in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Fighters are fighting out their contacts. They want to negotiate. They really want to see what their value is. We’re going to help them to define what their value is. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one bidder.
“I’ve always said we’re going to build our roster from the ground up and then buy the free agents from the top down that we want,” he continued… “By the end of this year, I think we’re gonna have a really good roster on our hands and some really big fights ahead of us.
“All these free agents that are out there aren’t just testing free agency just to test it. I think there are other fighters out there that we’ll get.”
Penick’s Analysis: This is a huge move for Bellator, and a potential sign of things to come. The UFC isn’t going to let every free agent go; they’d be foolish to let a large segment of elite competitors slip away. However, it’s clear that the best move for any fighter right now who feels they have some name value to fight out their deal and try to negotiate elsewhere. Bellator won’t be a home for everyone, and not all who test free agency will find it to be a wholly beneficial move, but for those in the top end of their divisions, who want to see how much they can command rather than settle for what the UFC is offering, Bellator is proving with signing names like Henderson and Phil Davis that they’re willing to step up as a viable option.
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