Monday Mailbag: PFL acquires Bellator and breaking down the future going forward

 Bader vs. Fedor 2 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA
Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

This past weekend, UFC Vegas 82 went down to little fanfare, and Bellator held the final event of its previous regime, as on Monday, PFL announced it had acquired Bellator. So let’s talk about the acquisition, what comes next, and what the best Bellator moment was.

PFL finally acquires Bellator

This isn’t technically a question, but since it’s the biggest news of the week, I figured I’d drop it in here. Finally, the longest running open secret in MMA is over and PFL has acquired Bellator. And in the words of Slim Charles, the game just got more fierce.

Look, everyone knew this was coming but the simple fact that it took so long had started to raise questions about what was happening. There were plenty of rumors that the deal was falling through and that Bellator would simply fold, which would have led to the biggest free agency burst in history. Now, all of that is put to bed and instead we can focus on what this means going forward.

And what does it mean? Well, some of that remains unclear. PFL’s insistence on running a “reimagined” Bellator is pretty open to interpretation. At least from the announcement it appears that Bellator will be focused on non-U.S. markets and both promotions will share fighters. And if that’s what ends up happening, well, that’s real dumb.

The only reason to acquire Bellator is the fighters and maybe some of the people/resources. That’s it. Bellator is not a particularly strong brand globally, and it just lost its broadcast deal, so really, that end of Bellator isn’t bringing anything to the table. What Bellator has that no other promotion has is a deep roster of talent. What PFL desperately needs is more talent. Bifurcating your fighters for no discernible reason is exceedingly curious. Remember when the UFC said they were going to do that with Pride? And then tried it with Strikeforce? That failed because you buy Bellator to strip it for parts, not to keep running the promotion.

Now, there is also the possibility that this is all intentionally temporary, and personally, I hope that’s the case. PFL buys Bellator, 2024 is a “PFL vs. Bellator” gimmick, and then the two promotions are all melded into the PFL banner. That’s a solid promotional year there. Maybe after that you try to set things up so that the “traditional PFL” and “Bellator” are two halves to a whole product where you can hold a Super Bowl type event every year, but if so, just call them PFL East and PFL West or something like that. Don’t keep Bellator alive for the sake of it. And again, I’m still not even sure that works. I guess we’re about to find out.

Big picture, I’m reserving judgment on this whole thing. I have long felt PFL had the best chance to become something of a counter to UFC (though it’s never going to be a real rival) because they were playing a different game. Bellator was just UFC light, which was never going to work. PFL at least brings different things to the table and them going from having the worst roster in MMA to the second best is legitimately interesting. But where they go from here is what’s going to determine the PFL’s longterm viability. The next couple of years should be interesting if nothing else.

P.S. PFL has got to stop putting out graphics. They are so bad at them. Saying you have a roster that rivals the UFC’s is blatantly not true. And if you and the UFC have collectively 60% of the top fighters in the world, where the (Mike) Heck are the other 40%? Comparative promotion only works when it’s legitimate and not when you’re making stuff up. Then you just look absurd and weaker than you are. Please, I’m begging you, stop.

P.P.S. Maybe now PFL can charge $50 for PPVs and people will actually buy them.

Bellator 301

In related news, Bellator 301 happened on Friday and in the main event, Yaroslav Amosov suffered a major upset, getting knocked out by Jason Jackson for his first career defeat. In the co-main event, Patchy Mix ran over Sergio Pettis to unify the Bellator bantamweight title and establish himself as one of the three best 135-pounders on the planet. In a world where PFL doesn’t buy Bellator, these fighters suddenly enter free agency next year and can start bargaining for a whole lot of money. Now, that’s not the case.

Assuming PFL simply retains the rights to all of the Bellator fighters, everyone is going to make roughly the same amount of money they currently do. The major caveat there is if some of these Bellator fighters are allowed into the 2024 PFL seasons, then there’s a $1 million prize they will also be fighting for. That might be a tough pill for some of the Bellator champions though who likely won’t be involved in the tournament but also aren’t going to get paid $1 million. So honestly, it might paradoxically be better to be Logan Storley or Amosov right now than it is to be Jason Jackson. Funny old world, innit?


Speaking of Amosov, the loss to Jackson was the first of his professional career. Prior to Friday, Amosov was 27-0, knocking on the door of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s incredible 29-0 run. After the loss, I noted how truly once-in-a-lifetime what Khabib did was, and a whole bevy of brain geniuses got into my mentions with a number of replies that would dull the paint off the walls. So let me explain.

Going 29-0 in MMA, is unreal. It simply does not happen. It cannot happen. It’s impossible. The sport is too chaotic, the margins are too small, and even if you yourself are perfect, the MMA gods favor anarchy. You can have a cold, roll your ankle, get caught, or simply get screwed by the judges or bad refereeing. Any of these things can and will happen in this sport, because that’s the nature of it. And yet, none of that happened to Khabib.

“Oh, but he fought cans!”

No. He didn’t. We went into this in detail on Khabib’s episode of DAMN! (check it out) but reports of cannery are vastly overblown. He fought people appropriate for his stage of development until 2011 when he fought seven times and did so explicitly to get noticed by the UFC. Even still, there are three fighters on his resume you can label as cans. And that’s just how it is for everyone. Everyone has a few, because sometimes you just need to get reps.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter! If his resume was exclusively cans, it’s still unrealistic to win 29 fights in a row against cans. At some point, the gods won’t favor you and you’ll slip on a banana peel, as we’ll get to in a moment.

“Oh but he lost to Gleison Tibau!”

Nah. He didn’t. In fact, he swept all three rounds. Go rewatch the fight (without commentary). If you want to score the bout for Tibau, that’s a reasonable score. But it’s also reasonable to score it for Khabib (I did, upon many rewatches). Tibau doesn’t do much either, but the commentary is simply overly enamored with his takedown defense. Defense doesn’t score points though.

Jon Jones is 29-0!”

Actually, he isn’t. Jones is 27-1, with 1 No-Contest. Check it out. And while I understand the sentiment, Jones actually is exactly my point. Jon Jones is one of the very best fighters in history. He has run roughshod over nearly everyone he’s faced. And yet, his resume has blemishes, as explicable as they are, because THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS SILLY SPORT! Sometimes you blow the doors off a dude but get DQed because this sport is dumb. Sometimes you blow a drug test after demolishing Daniel Cormier and the win gets overturned. Those things happen. Unless you’re Khabib.

Fond memories

So only the real heads know about Eric Prindle, Thiago Santos (not that one), and the greatest pair of low blows in history. In the first match, Santos landing an ax kick to the giblets is objectively hilarious. But our king Prindle knew what was up in the rematch. He knew he had the opportunity to do the funniest thing ever and he delivered, delivering a full-blown punt to nethers in revenge. Of course, he was DQed but what’s one loss for immortality, I ask you?

Aside from that, the featherweight grand prix selection show was probably the coolest thing Bellator ever did. If they had done more stuff like that, maybe they’d still be around today.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer my favorite ones! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane, just so long as they are good. Thanks again and see y’all next week.