Since it was founded in 2008, Bellator MMA (formerly Bellator Fighting Championships) has marched to the beat of its own drum. Rather than utilizing traditional matchmaking, Bellator chose to incorporate a tournament format where the tournament winner earns a title shot and a check for $100,000.

This format has given the promotion a great vessel for the development of its own talent. Fighters are placed on equal ground at the beginning of the tournament and winning is the only thing that matters.

Although this format has served Bellator very well and has been the main catalyst for the promotion’s growth into becoming the world’s second largest promotion behind the UFC, Bellator has been going to the well of former UFC fighters more and more as of late.

It is understandable on some level. After all, the UFC promotes its talent to the point where even its mid-tier fighters are well-known by casual MMA fans. But the more Bellator continues to go after UFC castoffs, the more it runs the risk of being seen as a second-rate promotion and not an alternative option to the UFC.

Forget about the Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson signings, because those two fighters, though well past their primes, carry enough name value that having them represent your organization makes business sense. They are not long-term solutions, but they will draw in viewers and attention.

The Bellator signings that are cause for concern are those of Lavar Johnson, Cheick Kongo and Kendall Grove. Why on earth would Bellator target these three fighters to begin with? It’s a lose-lose situation for the organization with these fighters on the roster.

What would have happened had Kongo beat current Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov at Bellator 115? Kongo was nothing more than a well-known gatekeeper in the UFC, so to have him win the title makes the organization look questionable at best.

Then you have Johnson, a talented knockout artist, but nothing more. Were there no other heavyweights out there deserving of a place in the tournament? Granted, Johnson is fun to watch, but why not just sign him to fill out cards rather than giving him a spot in the tournament? Johnson is 38 years old and the most impressive win of his career was a TKO over Pat Barry.

Then there’s the Grove signing, which on the surface wasn’t terrible. However, when you consider that the former The Ultimate Fighter winner was 1-3 in his last four before Bellator added him to its season-10 middleweight tournament, you have to stop and scratch your head. Sure, he is still only 31 years old, but his career record was 18-13, with one no-contest, when he joined the organization.

There is no reason Bellator needs to scrape the bottom of the UFC barrel to find fighters. The promotion has done a great job of finding talent over the years in fighters like Eddie Alvarez, Pat Curran, Douglas Lima and Michael Chandler.

It’s all about balance. Bellator has to stick to what made it what it is today, the tournament format, and it has to attract fans to maintain ratings for its television deals. Putting UFC throwaways in its tournaments is not the best way to gain exposure, nor is it a great way to build the legitimacy of the organization as a whole.

Even though the casual fan base may view wins over guys like Grove and Kongo as “name wins” for the fighters on the Bellator roster, they also realize these guys were sent packing from the UFC for a reason.

For Bellator to really make a statement in the MMA world, the promotion needs to do what it did when Gilbert Melendez was on the market. Make a hard play and throw out an attractive offer to show that it is just as good as the UFC and that fighters should want to be with the promotion.

Bellator is a quality organization with a great product, and it is important that the promotion stay true to what it does by developing talent and champions through the tournament system. In the long run, it is going to pay off much better than picking up middle-of-the-road or over-the-hill fighters that the UFC has chewed up and spit out. Bellator should be known as the organization where titles are earned and champions are made, not the organization where UFC castoffs go to die.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.