Make to no mistake about it, Bellator MMA wants to become the top mixed martial arts (MMA) organization on the planet.
In a little over four years since it's first show, Bellator MMA has put on nearly 100 shows across North America and quickly grown into a legitimate promotion with some of the best fighters in the world signed to its roster.
From Pride to World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) to Affliction and most recently Strikeforce, there have been plenty of organizations over the years who have tried to challenge the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and some had more success than others.
Bellator MMA, though, has the financial backing (Viacom) and television partnership (Spike TV) few UFC alternatives have ever come close to. And while that makes the company uniquely successful in its own right, the one thing that is always a constant in this sport is fighters grow up dreaming of fighting in the UFC.
MMA organizations can do their best to hang on to their talent, but at the end of the day a vast majority of the fighters --such as Eddie Alvarez-- want the opportunity to showcase their talents on the biggest stage of them all an make the money that comes along with it.
Unfortunately, though, Bellator MMA is not in the business of grooming talent and sending them off to the UFC, which is exactly why company found and CEO Bjorn Rebney tells MMA Junkie that Bellator MMA will never, ever become a "feeder system" for the UFC.
"We're in a very, very unique spot in terms of rarified air. We're in a spot that nobody else has ever occupied in the mixed-martial-arts space other than the UFC, and I think it needs to be made very clear we never have been and we never will be a feeder system for the UFC. We are building up champions and some of the greatest fighters in the world compete in this organization. I believe we have the greatest featherweight and the greatest lightweight in the world fighting in this organization, and soon I believe we'll have more of the nest fighters in their respective weights fighting in this organization.
"We did not get into this to be No. 2, and so the reality of this situation is that we're not simply an organization that was designed to give people an opportunity, and then ultimately they can transition to the UFC. When you sign a contract, and you get a $150,000 signing bonus, even if it's four years later, you still have to live up to the terms of that agreement. Call me old-school, but when you sign an agreement with somebody and you take a lot of money and you get paid handsomely to fight, the expectation is that you should live up to your commitments that you made in that contract. That is the point."
Fans will likely always view the UFC as number one because of the footprint it has left on the sport over the last 20 years, but Rebney feels there is a space for Bellator MMA to surpass the UFC -- just not if he is giving up talent to the rival promotion.