Former Sengoku featherweight champion Marlon Sandro – believed to be the second-best 145-pounder not currently under the UFC umbrella – has signed a deal with Bellator Fighting Championships and will make his American debut sometime in 2011, according to multiple internet reports out on Wednesday. Sandro’s exodus comes amid news that Sengoku is granting releases to fighters who ask for them, probably signaling that the Japanese promotion’s prolonged death spasm is nearing its end.
Sandro is currently ranked in the featherweight Top 10 on any list worth its salt. Though he lost his Sengoku title to Hatsu Hioki in late December he’ll make a stellar addition for the newly MTV-friendly Bellator. The promotion crowned Joe Warren it’s 145-pound champ after his come-from-behind victory over Joe Soto in September and you’d have to think Sandro immediately becomes No. 1 contender. Some pontificating on what it all means after the jump.
First, Sengoku is obviously headed the way of the mighty bison sooner rather than later. The company recently granted releases to middleweight champion Jorge Santiago and heavyweight prospect Dave “PeeWee” Herman, so Sandro’s defection is just another sign Sengoku isn’t making any long term plans here.
One interesting note from ESPN’s Josh Gross though: Sengoku is still holding onto its deal with Hioki, who has one fight left on his contract. The 27-year-old is currently ranked No. 2 in the world and Gross sites anonymous sources saying there’s been some mutual eye-fucking going on between Hioki and the UFC. He didn’t use those words of course, but be sure to watch that situation as it continues to develop.
Aside from being a former Sengoku champ, Sandro is the current King of Pancrase and his only two career losses (dude is 17-2) are to Hioki and a weirdo decision to Michihiro Omigawa back in 2009. That fight came in the third round of the Sengoku featherweight grand prix and two of the three judges scored it a draw. Because it was a tournament bout the judges – we like to imagine it was the “Strikeforce Tournament Committee,” even though it totally wasn’t – awarded Omigawa a 2-1 split decision.