If you’re running a mixed martial arts promotion, you’re always looking for more and more talent to bring in and enhance your roster. If you happen to be in direct competition with the UFC, it can be hard to keep up with what the biggest promotion on the planet is capable of doing, and that often creates a challenge when it comes to acquiring new talent. Although Bellator has been doing its best to develop its own talent, the promotion does sign a fair amount of released fighters from Zuffa-owned operations. It’s by this method that the promotion acquired the services of Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Lavar Johnson and Cheick Kongo.

Bellator recently continued this trend when news broke of the signing of Phil Baroni. The promotion definitely inked a big name that will capture the eyes and ears of longtime fans of the sport, but does this acquisition enhance the Bellator product?

There was a time when “The New York Bad Ass” was an attractive commodity for promotions. However, that time was in the mid-2000s. After his fight at Pride 32, his record stood at a respectable 10-7. He spent time fighting with the UFC, Strikeforce, EliteXC, Dream, ONE FC and, of course, Pride.

Although having all of those top promotions on his resume may look like a good thing, it actually works against him. Spending time in many various rings and cages is a sign that he has been released over and over again. Simply put, promotions rarely release their best fighters. If he was worth keeping around, one of the aforementioned promotions would have held onto him.

Now, as we approach the mid-2010s, the 37-year-old’s record stands at an unimpressive 15-17, which doesn’t exactly scream “high-profile free agent.” Companies do not target fighters like Baroni as their blueprint to elevate their product to the next level, nor should they.

But, for what it’s worth, Baroni could be a good signing for the promotion. It would come at a very limited level, and it would required Bellator to be smart about how it utilizes the veteran.

Bellator cannot glorify its signing of the Long Island native by spotlighting him in a co-main event fight. The promotion must put him where he belongs: in the SpikeTV.com streamed undercards. In that role, Baroni can serve a significant purpose. His name recognition and brawling style could perhaps attract more viewers to the online broadcast.

The promotion needs to focus on fighters that are the future of the promotion and keep its spotlight fixed on those potential stars. It should not put its promotional push behind fighters who are near the end of their careers. Instead, it should position those aging stars in supporting roles.

Bellator’s signing of Baroni to fight on the card in New Jersey on May 2 was a good move, because he will help put butts in the seats. The more eyes on Bellator’s product, the more chances the promotion has to expose those viewers to its prospects. Baroni’s role isn’t to be the face of the promotion, but he can play a vital role in making more people aware of the talented fighters at the top of the card.

What shouldn’t happen, however, is for Bellator to reward Baroni with a spot in a future tournament if he wins on May 2. There’s no denying his status as a recognizable name, but Bellator would be taken to task for inserting a fighter with a sub-.500 record into a tourney bracket. That certainly wouldn’t help the promotion’s credibility as it moves forward.

Bellator needs to take this relationship nice and slow so it doesn’t damage its reputation as a top promotion. If Bellator brought Baroni in to fight on the undercard on a one-fight deal, then it was a good signing. However, if the Bellator brass jump the gun and rush out to put Baroni in a four-man tournament against even lesser competition in order to try to pump him up the way it has with Rampage, Lawal and Kongo, then their entire business model is discredited.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.