Photo of Hector Lombard courtesy of Bellator.com.
Hey, you know that thirty-something middleweight champion who punches really hard and has beaten 20 straight opponents without ever being knocked out?
No, I'm not talking about Anderson Silva.
I'm referring, of course, to Bellator's 185-pound champion, Hector Lombard. At 31-2, he may currently be the most talented fighter to never compete under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) umbrella (sorry, Fedor).
But for how long?
"Everybody's asking me about that," UFC President Dana White told media members following the event last Friday night (March 2, 2012) in Australia, home to the Judo and jiu-jitsu black belt in question. 2
Here's what the Las Vegas fight boss had to say about signing "Lightning" Lombard:
"I guess he's pretty popular down here. I've been hearing all about him since I've been here. I hear he's under contract though with someone else, so we''ll see. I'll probably end up with him. If he wants to fight in the UFC, then we'll probably end up with him."
Lombard's contract is set to expire in just a few months, and Bellator's big cheese, Bjorn Rebney, told MMAmania.com in our exclusive interview, that he has every intention of re-signing him.
But will "Shango" be looking for greener pastures?
"Well, Hector remains our champion right now. We are in the midst of a pretty substantial negotiation relative to his future with the organization. I've said many times I think he's the best middleweight in mixed martial arts so it's not an easy negotiation by any stretch of the imagination. We've got the right to match on any deal. We're either gonna sign him before he goes out the to marketplace or he's going to go out to the marketplace and we're gonna have a determination as to whether we're gonna match or not match and we're gonna see where it ends up. I love the guy and he's an awesome talent. He's been nothing but a pure pleasure for me to work with. He's been a great guy for me to work with and he's done everything we've asked him to do and every time I've put him in a cage, he's knocked people silly. You can't really ask for more than that from a guy."
Lombard's only two losses have come by unanimous decision to Gegard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono in fights that took place nearly six years ago. He has 24 finishes, including 17 (T)KO stoppages in 31 wins. He's been called everything from professional can-crusher to top five middleweight in the world.
Is it time for him to sign with the UFC and prove which label suits him best? Or has he done enough in Bellator (and beyond) to already convince you? Let's get some feedback on Lombard, including where you think he'll end up, in the comments section below.