(“Alright, let’s see who you REALLY are! *tugs ears* Damn it, Scooby Doo made this look so easy…”)
If you follow college football at all, you probably remember the story of Kevin Hart, the high school lineman who held a press conference on national signing day in 2008 to declare that he was going to play college football for the Cal Bears. When the team announced that they never even had interest in recruiting him – let alone offering him a football scholarship – Hart claimed that he had been duped by a fake agent. It was one of the most bizarre sports stories in years; one that surely couldn’t happen again.
Yet here we are only five years later with an extremely similar story, only instead of involving a mediocre high school athlete from a small town in Nevada, it involves former UFC featherweight Leonard Garcia.
As we have covered, the recently released Leonard Garcia expressed no interest in signing with Bellator, even though they supposedly offered him a deal. In a way, this is a good thing, because according to Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, the promotion never actually planned on signing him in the first place. Via MMAJunkie.com:
“Leonard Garcia has never been approached by our company,” Rebney on Friday told MMAjunkie.com. “We have never had any interest or expressed any interest in signing Leonard Garcia. But he claimed to have been approached by Bellator about signing. Now, I’ve got a lot of respect for anybody who steps inside the cage. I’ve got a lot of respect for anybody who’s got the guts to be a professional mixed martial artist. But with all due respect, we had no interest in signing him.”
So then why did Leonard Garcia believe that he was offered a deal with the promotion? Well, I sort-of already gave this away in the title of this article (not to mention the opening paragraphs), so let’s just get right back to Rebney’s quotes:
“What we’ve heard over the last two to three days is that apparently there are some people out there calling gyms and calling managers claiming to be recruiters of talent for Spike and Bellator,” he said. “The reality of the situation is, I don’t know who’s motivating that or who’s paying people to make those calls, but I will say this: If it’s not me, and it’s not Sam Caplan or Zach Light, then you’re not being contacted by Bellator about the signing of a fighter.”
Rebney said Bellator was told by a “well-known” gym owner in the Southwest, as well as an East Coast-based fighter manager, that they had been contacted by someone claiming to represent Bellator.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from, and I don’t know who’s causing that to happen or who’s behind that,” he said. “But they’re not real, and Leonard Garcia is an example of one.”
Just so we’re all on the same page: If you’re an aspiring MMA fighter or a former UFC talent trying to get back to the big leagues, and you’re offered a Bellator contract from a guy who isn’t Rebney/Caplan/Light, then yeah, you’re getting screwed. Wonderful.
Much like the Kevin Hart story, this whole ordeal raises far more questions than it answers. Questions like “Why would a scammer go after someone like Leonard Garcia, who has good enough management to recognize the offer is fake?” and “Wouldn’t even the dimmest fighters figure out they’re getting scammed when they don’t see their names on the event card/website/etc.?” immediately come to my mind, among others. Of course, this is all being written under the assumption that there’s any truth to the “fake agent” story; in Hart’s case, there wasn’t.
For what it’s worth, much like Kevin Hart eventually ended up playing D-II football, Leonard Garcia has already signed with a new promotion. Yesterday it was announced that Garcia signed a three-fight deal with Texas-based Legacy Fighting Championship and will be making his promotional debut against Rey Trujillo. Trujillo may only be a mediocre 14-10 in his career, yet his nine career knockouts – including a twenty-four second KO by Superman Punch – imply that this will be an exciting scrap.
So now the question remains, what do you think is actually going on here? Was Garcia getting conned, or is Bellator trying to save face? And do any of you have stories about interactions with a fake Bellator agent to share? Let us know what you think about this in the comments section.