Given the very nature of Bellator’s tournament structure, becoming a champion may not be the most financially viable thing to do in the promotion. It is the burden of a Bellator champion to largely sit on the shelf until a tournament is complete and a new challenger is crowned. The promotion has all but given up on “Super Fights” since light heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu lost a unanimous decision to Travis Wiuff last October, leaving virtually no choice for the champions but to take fights abroad.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney once told me, “we look at the match-up and look at the proposed fight and weigh the risks, … but we’re real flexible about that.” That very statement may be part of the reason why the aforementioned Alvarez and Lombard had success in their bouts in Japan and Australia, respectively. It’s a high risk move lending your champion out to another promotion as a loss can devalue the legitimacy of the title, thus the case of Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas (14-3).
Last night the Nova Uniao product and incumbent champion stepped into the ring at Shooto 33 in Rio de Janeiro against the virtually unknown Tyson Nam (12-4). “Dudu” started off well with the trademark Nova Uniao muay thai style, but before long an errant knee from the plum left Dantas wide open for a dynamite right hand from Nam, leaving the Bellator champ looking up at the lights for the first time in his career and bringing a three-year undefeated streak to a screeching halt in just 1:40.
While the loss comes as an upset, to say the least, it highlights the issue with major promotions lending out their champions to smaller circuits. On any given day, your champion can be beaten, regardless of looking at the match-up beforehand and determining whether or not it’s winnable. According to Rebney, Bellator is actively trying to give their champions more cage time by putting on more tournaments per-season to eliminate this risk, even putting together a whopping five simultaneous tournaments in season 6.
As for Tyson Nam, scoring the biggest win of his career more than likely punched the Oregonian’s ticket to the Bellator cage. If Nam does sign with Bellator, he will have to fight his through the tournament to get another title-shot against the man he already beat mid-reign, which as we saw on Friday with Travis Wiuff is not a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.