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Beyond the Octagon – Tyson Fury, Bellator, Justin Gaethje

Fury Vs Cunningham (Photo: AP)
Photo: Fury vs Cunningham (AP)

Bellator’s Open Dialogue with Tyson Fury

Remember that time Dana White signed James Toney and promised us the answer to the age old, and completely redundant, question, “Who wins an MMA fight between a boxer and an MMA fighter?”.

Of course you do. Toney’s fight against Randy Couture was the most pointless mismatch the company had promoted since the early Royce Gracie days.

Now, it seems Bellator is looking to re-prove a point that didn’t require proving in the first place. Their President Scott Coker announced this week that the company has been in dialogue with Tyson Fury’s management.

“He thinks that MMA fighters can’t fight, and he has no idea what he’s potentially getting himself into. He believes in his mind that he’s going to go in there and knock them out.”

It’s not the first time Fury’s name has been mentioned in relation to MMA. The WBO International Heavyweight Champion has called out Cain Velasquez on more than one occasion, and referred to the sport as “rubbish” back in 2013.

Unlike Toney whose best days were behind him when he stepped into the Octagon, just four days after his 42nd birthday, Fury remains a relevant heavyweight contender. At just 26 years old he has yet to reach his peak in a division that is typically dominated by older fighters.

That gives any potential MMA fight involving Fury a competitive edge that Toney – Couture lacked. It also makes it unlikely that any fight will materialize in the near future.

Make no mistake, Fury’s sights are firmly set on a fight with current IBF, WBA and WBO Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko. Testing his hand at MMA against even a mediocre Bellator heavyweight would put his reputation, and that Klitschko fight, in serious jeopardy.

Yet Fury talks. He talks a lot, and not about mediocre Bellator heavyweights but about people he knows are never going to fight him. Along with Velasquez, Brock Lesnar and Bob Sapp have also been on his hit list, in the past.

Fury Appeals, But Can Bellator Afford Him?

Since Scott Coker grabbed the reigns and pulled Bellator in a new direction, he has made it clear that recognizable names and fun fights will be promoted. When Coker is happy to push Ken Shamrock Vs Kimbo Slice in 2015, it’s easy to see why Tyson Fury would be appealing.

He would also be expensive. It has been reported that Fury’s purse for a fight against Steve Cunningham in 2013 was over $1m. Fury was expected to receive approximately $5m for a fight against David Haye later that year, a fight which eventually fell through when Haye was cut during training. Potential fights against current world champions Deontay Wilder and Wladimir Klitschko would bring similar paydays.

Viacom, Bellator’s parent company, may have incredibly deep pockets, but they would do well to recoup such an investment for any fight promoted under the Bellator banner.

Current Bellator Heavyweight Champion Vitaliy Minakov has all the tools to drag Fury to the mat and make him look a fool, but has nowhere near the drawing power to pull a big number in the process.

A fight against Kimbo Slice would equal money, but still probably not enough of it. There is also the risk that Fury might actually beat Slice. Close your eyes and visualize the fight, is a Fury win that unimaginable?

If Coker can somehow convince Tyson Fury to lower his demands and step into the Bellator cage, the company have to put him in there against someone with name value. They also need to put him in there with someone who will beat him.

Thankfully, they do have such a heavyweight on their roster. Bobby Lashley is a former WWE superstar currently splitting his time between Bellator and professional wrestling outfit Total Nonstop Action. If Fury is determined to prove his point, let him come and feed him to Lashley.

Fans will care, and Fury will lose. The fight would probably look a lot like that Toney – Couture one almost five years ago.

We will then know what we always have, that MMA fighters beat non MMA fighters in MMA fights, and we will feel smug about it too. Another MMA outsider sent packing with egg on his face.

Bellator Fight Announcement Balances Kimbo/Shamrock Card

In other Bellator news, a number of fights were announced this week, most notably Mike Richman vs Eduardo Dantas, and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs Georgi Karakhanyan.

Richman and Dantas had been scheduled to fight at Bellator 135, but an injury to Richman forced the bout to be removed from the card.

The two bantamweights will now fight at Bellator 137 on May 15 hoping to push themselves into title contention with a win. With Marcos Galvao dethroning Joe Warren last weekend, and LC Davis taking a split decision over Hideo Tokoro in an outstanding contest on the same show, Bellator’s bantamweight division is thriving.

Patricio Freire will defend his featherweight title against Georgi Karakhanyan at Bellator 138. This is the card headlined by the much maligned Ken Shamrock – Kimbo Slice tussle, and brings some much needed credibility to the June 19th show.

Freire beat Karakhanyan by third round TKO back at Bellator 37 in 2011, but the Armenian challenger has gone 10-1 since that defeat. Most recently he upset Bubba Jenkins at Bellator 132 and poses a competitive threat to the featherweight champion.

Gaethje & Palomino Produce Fight of the Year Contender

A week is a long time in the world of MMA, but Justin Gaethje’s WSOF Lightweight Title defense against Luis Palomino last Saturday is still being talked about. When the year comes to a close and we are discussing fight of the year candidates it will be talked about some more.

At the very least, the first round appears a shoe in when people start dishing out round of the year awards. It even closed with an attempted WWE style spinning heel kick.

At the time of writing, Justin Gaethje’s third round stoppage of Luis Palomino stands alone as the best fight of 2015 and is essential viewing for any MMA fan who might have missed it.

The two warriors went to war, throwing down in violent fashion as the momentum swung back and forth over three career shortening rounds.

The clamour for Gaethje to move to the UFC is now even greater, but the World Series of Fighting Champion claims to be content with his current employer.

“Until the UFC can make it worth it to leave, then I’m more than happy to go. But I’m here for the company, and the company’s here for me.”

In other words, the ball is firmly in the UFC’s court. If they don’t come calling after that performance, Gaethje has to wonder whether they ever will.

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