Cross-promotion in mixed martial arts (MMA) is truly a hardcore fan’s fantasy come to life.
There have been many instances where two organizations have worked together to put on the biggest and best fights imaginable. In recent memory, Bellator and RIZIN stand out for their partnership leading to several amazing moments that have occurred dating back to late 2019. Going back even further, there was a time when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) famously sent Chuck Liddell over to PRIDE Fighting Championship to compete (unsuccessfully) in one of its tournaments.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone for the sport’s biggest promotion, and former two-division Bellator champion, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, believes he knows the reason.
“I think that’s the next step in MMA, other promotions have already taken,” Pitbull told MMA Fighting of cross-promotion. “Bellator has taken that step, RIZIN too. Maybe Bellator against PFL [next]. I wish the UFC would join as well, because we know there’s [that debate], who’s the best one, the UFC or the Bellator [champion]? It doesn’t matter who I think wins, what really matters is who actually wins. So, to be sure, we have to put the champions [in a position] to fight each other. To me, that’s the next step we have to take in MMA.
“When Pride was the MMA giant, [UFC President Dana White] risked his fighters to fight there and do a cross-promotion,” Pitbull continued. “Now that he has this monopoly of the bigger promotion, he’s afraid that his champion will go there for a superfight like this and end up losing and taking away that credibility and name they have.”
Over the years, there have been multiple fighters who have departed UFC for Bellator and found success. Notable names like Gegard Mousasi, Ryan Bader and Rory MacDonald all went on to become champions. With fighter pay as a consistently hot topic in the sport, Pitbull believes it could lead us to still seeing some dream fights come to fruition via free agency.
“You’re seeing a big [exodus] of fighters [from the UFC],” Pitbull said. “The heavyweight champion, Francis [Ngannou], is talking about leaving because of money. [Henry] Cejudo stopped [fighting] because of money. Many fighters are migrating to other organizations because of that, so it’s a matter of time.”
Pitbull returns to action next weekend (Fri., April 15, 2022) at Bellator 277 for a rematch with Featherweight champion, A.J. McKee.