Wanderlei Silva (R) (Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)

Signing Wanderlei Silva Won’t Help Bellator MMA Lose Circus Label

We all knew it would only be a matter of time until someone would acquire Wanderlei Silva’s services once the UFC announced his release in January. It took a little over a month, but the former Pride champion officially has a home. That new home is Bellator MMA.

There were some rumors going around that Silva might sign with the new Japanese promotion Rizin, which is being led by former Pride head Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Given Silva’s recent history with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it all seemed to be lining up for Silva to head back to the place where he built his legacy. Now, however, all those rumors can be put to bed. Bellator officially announced that it had inked Silva to a new contract. This is where things get complicated, and perhaps a little ugly.

For starters, we don’t even know if Silva would be allowed to fight anywhere in the United States. He is still serving a suspension for running away from a drug test before he was set to face archrival Chael Sonnen. Silva never actually tested positive, though he would later admit he was taking a banned substance, but the commission handles any missed test as a failure. If you are reading this, you likely already know the entire saga that ensued, so I’ll spare you the details. What is important, though, is the fact that Silva is still technically suspended under the NSAC rules. Commissions in this country usually honor each other’s rulings, so it isn’t like Silva can just change zip codes and go about his business.


There are whispers that Bellator is open to the idea of lending Silva’s services to the aforementioned Rizin Fighting Federation, thereby allowing the Brazilian to fight sooner rather than later because Japan doesn’t have to honor any ruling made by a state athletic commission in the United States. This wouldn’t be anything new for Bellator, which has already let one of its top light heavyweight contenders, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, take part in Rizin’s heavyweight tournament just a few months ago. The idea of Silva stepping inside a Rizin ring as a Bellator fighter while still suspended by the NSAC is not completely out of this world.

However, let’s not completely rule out the other option here: Silva fighting in the United States under the Bellator banner. We’ve already seen the commission reduce his suspension drastically from a life ban to just three years, retroactively. This means he can fight as soon as next year. His his team of lawyers isn’t giving up so easily, either, and everyone expects them to take this to federal court. Just the fact that this is being disputed so heavily, it can open other commissions — looking at you, Texas — to give Silva a license to fight if they believe the punishment was unjust.

Will Silva go on and fight some old Japanese star in Rizin’s next show? Will he actually fight in Bellator this year and take part in all the craziness Bellator President Scott Coker has brought to Spike TV since he took over Bellator operations? Will Silva fight Kimbo Slice? Royce Gracie? Tito Ortiz? If he beats all these guys, will Bellator make a legends division title for him to parade around? OK, maybe I’m getting a little carried away with that last one (or am I?).

One thing we can all bet the house on with this signing is the fun circus in the Bellator cage won’t be going away anytime soon, and you are probably going to tune in to watch it.