I don’t really like to get into conspiracies, especially when it comes to sports, but Bellator MMA is giving me more reason to.
When you’re an MMA organization that plays a very distant second fiddle to the biggest organization in the world, it’s really hard to get attention unless you do things that draw eyeballs. Many fans who have a little conspiratorial edge to them might suspect that to be the case with Bellator, which, in my opinion, has gone from a very decent and respectable organization to a pretty terrible train wreck after the departure of Bjorn Rebney as president of the company.
Unfortunately, it appears the main event at Bellator 170 between UFC veterans Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen had enough possibility of fakery to it that it’s been called out as a fixed fight. With both guys basically fighting at the latter ends of their career, that’s not totally out of whack. In fact, Ortiz decided the fight was going to be the last of his career, making the announcement before the fight took place. While Sonnen hasn’t really said much about his future, he has been on a bit of a downward spiral since getting knocked out of title contention in the UFC and losing two opportunities to beat his rival, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
After it was all said and done, the result of the fight — Ortiz won by guillotine choke in just over two minutes — wasn’t so much the problem. The problem was that people thought that it could have been fixed. Considering how the fight was between two veterans of the sport who have gone through their fair share of battles, it would be a big disappointment if either of them agreed to fixing a fight.
Now, anytime I hear trolls on social media and casual sports fans claim anything is fixed, it really grinds my gears, to steal a phrase from Peter Griffin on Family Guy. I just don’t like it. I feel like these people are too busy being conspiracy theorists, because they don’t have anything else to complain about, so they have to latch onto something they can’t even prove.
However, when it comes to Bellator MMA, I’m not really bothered as much by these accusations. The promotion has a history of train-wreck fights that look ridiculous to any serious fight fan. With that prospect, it’s not too big of a reach to think the organization will do anything to get attention.
In June 2015, the late Kimbo Slice, a former street fighter turned MMA fighter, fought UFC legend Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138. It turned out to be a very bizarre fight, and the likes of UFC commentator Joe Rogan and former fighter Brendan Schaub speculated about how it could have been fixed. When someone like Rogan, who has been covering fights cageside for almost two decades, talks about fixed fights, I would have to take what they have to say pretty seriously.
Again, I’m not a conspiratorial person regarding sports, but Rogan seems pretty dead set on the belief that something was fishy there. Also, he’s not just saying it without explaining how he reached that conclusion, either. He’s actually picking out specific instances in the fight between Slice and Shamrock that were suspect. It’s very easy to just say something, but explaining why you’re saying it is much better for credibility’s sake.
To my knowledge, Rogan hasn’t stated anything regarding this most recent fight between Ortiz and Sonnen. However, a lot of people on social media seem to have their suspicions.
As far as Bellator goes, on a general standpoint, the company would be better inclined to not put on these train-wreck fights between fighters who are fairly irrelevant in the sport or people that just aren’t fighters, period. While these fights do create more buzz in the mainstream and pit two guys against each other who will make people talk, they don’t deliver in the end. The fight between the aforementioned Slice and Dada 5000 definitely comes to mind.
To be fair, there wasn’t necessarily a train-wreck element in the Ortiz and Sonnen fight, but rather in the aftermath. The accusation of a fight being fixed is far worse, though. It makes a mockery out of the organization and the sport as well.
It’s unfair to definitively say that the fight between Ortiz and Sonnen was fixed, but it’s hard to shake these claims when a promotion has a history of choosing theatrics over substance.
That’s why Bellator needs to stick to putting on regular fights with its regular roster of fighters. The company was doing this under Rebney. These fights with washed-up fighters isn’t doing anybody any favors, but current Bellator President Scott Coker seems to be doing the same thing over and over again.
Will it ever stop?