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Eduardo Dantas, Bellator, And the Folly of Letting Your Guys Fight Elsewhere

(Dantas vs. Nam @ Shooto Brazil 33, 8/25/12. Skip to 4:26 for the knockout.)

By Jim Genia

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “folly” as “lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight.” Bellator president Bjorn Rebney, however, likely now defines it as making the ridiculous mistake of letting one of his champions fight somewhere else. This past weekend, Bellator bantamweight king Eduardo Dantas was allowed by his American employers to take a fight closer to home in Rio de Janeiro, for the promotion Shooto Brasil. There, he met Oregon-based fighter Tyson Nam — a 12-4 regional competitor and, by all appearances, easy prey. And guess what? Dantas got knocked the heck out in the first round. Yeah, Bellator done goofed.

If there are unwritten rules to promoting MMA events, somewhere near the top of the list has to be “never let your champs fight in other shows.” Because, really, while the reward for said fighter winning is the implication that your organization is superior in terms of the quality of its competitors, the risk is that your guy could get his butt kicked.  In that scenario, what’s implied (or sometimes stated explicitly) is that your fighters suck — or, at the very least, that the fighters in the other shows are better.  And who wants to be the one with the weaker fighters?

Not the UFC, that’s for sure.  Take for instance the failed contract negotiations to get heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko into the Octagon, and the alleged stipulation that Fedor, if he signed with the UFC, wouldn’t have been allowed to even compete in sambo tournaments in Mother Russia. Do you think Dana White wants tarnished fighters? He doesn’t even want them losing in something that’s not even mixed martial arts! (Sadly, this wasn’t always policy; see below.)

Of course, Bellator had its reasons for allowing Dantas to do his thing in Brazil. For one, due to Bellator’s reliance on tournaments to anoint top contenders, their champs fight pretty infrequently, and Dantas does have to eat, make car payments, deal with credit card bills, etc.  Therefore, a paycheck that comes maybe twice a year probably doesn’t cut it. So why not let him work a shift somewhere else? Also, Dantas isn’t the first Bellator champ to be allowed to stray; former lightweight pack leader Eddie Alvarez was allowed to compete in DREAM in Japan, and Alvarez came away victorious.

In that example, the Bellator hardware lost none of its luster. But at the end of the day, is the risk worth it?  The answer is “no.” Because right now, everyone is watching YouTube clips of Bellator’s top 135-pound fighter getting put to sleep at some show in South America, and the conclusion those viewers are coming to is that when it comes to bantamweights, Shooto Brasil has got Bellator beat. It’s a guarantee that that’s the last thing Rebney wants. You know what he probably does want right now?  A freakin’ time machine.

Other examples of fighters who belong to one organization taking ill-advised fights in other organizations and paying for their folly include:

  • Chuck Liddell, who, with White in tow, flew to Japan to face Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at the 2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix semifinals. Granted, earlier that year “the Iceman” had gone from top UFC light-heavyweight contender to grappling dummy for a revitalized Randy Couture, and in PRIDE’s Middleweight Grand Prix quarterfinals, Liddell snuffed out Alistair Overeem. But Liddell was still a very valuable piece in Zuffa’s UFC puzzle at the time, and PRIDE was the UFC’s biggest competitor in the MMA market. Loaning them Liddell was mistake — partially because it allowed Rampage to ground Liddell into hamburger meat, but also because it lent credence to the argument (and at the time, these arguments raged) that PRIDE was better.
  • Shinya Aoki, who was the DREAM lightweight champ when he hopped on a plane, came to the United States, and took on Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce belt. Melendez beat the bejeezus out of the Japanese submission wizard for five solid rounds. It was so thorough a drubbing, you can bet at least one lower-level DREAM executive was ordered to commit seppuku for the mistake.
  • You’d think DREAM would’ve learned their lesson with Aoki, but no. No, they didn’t. Hot on the heels of Aoki’s loss, they sent over their second best lightweight in Tatsuya Kawajiri, and this time, Melendez needed only three minutes and fourteen seconds to destroy whatever credibility DREAM’s lightweight division might still have had.
  • Back in the days when SEG owned the UFC and the organization was struggling, reigning champ Pat Miletich was allowed to take a fight in the Hawaiian promotion Superbrawl against Japanese one-trick pony Jutaro Nakao. Unfortunately, that one trick Nakao was really good at was the triangle choke, and once Miletich tapped to it, the UFC had itself a champ who’d fought somewhere else and lost. D’oh. What lessened the blow to the UFC brand was the fact that few people watched the UFC at the time (it was banned from pay-per-view), and even fewer knew what Superbrawl was. Since Miletich’s loss was never acknowledged on air, the proverbial bullet was dodged.
  • Once he won the YAMMA belt, Travis Wiuff should never have been permitted to fight anywhere else.  YAMMA never die!

Cagepotato Comments

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djkato- August 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm
Eduardo Dantas got "BJ Penn'd" by Tyson Nam. Holy shit.
Nippletwist- August 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm
folly: chael sonnen getting title shots
Alan K- August 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm
The first thing most casual fans will say upon hearing this is, "What's a Bellator?"
ArmFarmer- August 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm
The article is just pointing out that when you send your champ to another organization, you always run the risk of him losing. When that happens, it makes your org look bad, and that's why it's generally not the best idea. It doesn't say anything about Nam being a shitty fighter. He's not jumping to conclusions, he's just pointing out that this is bad publicity for bellator.. which it is. It's not a horrible article, if anything it's stating the obvious.
algiersheadkick504- August 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm
@dickfarmer...dude its too early to jump to conclusions like the writer did. tyson nam might be the next big thing, maybe dantas needed that lose and will come back a much better fighter. he did lose in a lesser promotion but didnt lose his title. hasnt lost in bellator yet which really matters. if both guys continue to win and improve this will soon be forgetten
ArmFarmer- August 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
@dasjkfjasjheadkick Dude.. what are you going on about? All he's saying is that when you let your champ go to a supposedly lesser venue to compete and he loses, it's not good for your org. You even agreed with that in your rant. Yes, we know anyone can get caught by anyone, which is exactly why it's bad policy to let your champ take a fight elsewhere to face what, on paper, is lesser competition. Did you even read the article?
angry little feet- August 27, 2012 at 10:12 am
Wait - has this Jim guy ever written anything for us before? Because if not... Welcome to the Thunderdome, dude :)
amsterdamheavy- August 27, 2012 at 8:57 am
" legendary heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko "

Really? Hey writer...proofread your shit next time. Scrub.
As Good As Anyone- August 27, 2012 at 8:23 am
Garbage ass article.
Goog- August 27, 2012 at 8:12 am
This is actually refreshing to me. So he lost. Big deal. He's still a great fighter, it gives me a reason to applaud Bellator for "loaning their fighter", and it in no way resembles the soap opera in the UFC. I remember back when I enjoyed this more... it was guys wanting to fight for bragging rights and title shots. Now it's practically in the fans hands as whoever's mentioned in the most tweets to Dana gets matched up. Guys talking their way to fights. And Jones being the worst example of them all yet with protecting a "legacy" he hasn't even built yet.

Every fighter (except Jones) will say "It's a fist fight... anyone can beat anyone on a given night." *cough*matt serra*cough* So good for Nam, maybe this will bring him something positive. Dantas is no less a stud for getting hit with a good shot. And Bellator gets a star for not being a bunch of uptight skirts. More, please.

Put that in your little notebook.
algiersheadkick504- August 27, 2012 at 8:04 am
horrible article. yes it does hurt dantas rep and record. tyson nam isnt a shitty fighter this must be the first time watching him fight. dantas thought he had nam hurt with a knee (me too) went in for more knees and got caught...godforbid yur in a fight and got caught...remember chuck liddell getting his ass whopped by rampage, he went back to the ufc and won.