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DGS Main Event MMA Who to Look Out For in 2017: Bellator MMA

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It may of taken them some time, but thanks to the powers of free agency and the unfavorable Reebok sponsorship deal the UFC signed on for, Bellator MMA is on the rise to be more than just the second most recognizable promotion in mixed martial arts today and 2017, I believe will be a huge year for them.

When you ask an up-in-coming professional MMA fighter what their dream is, nine times out of ten, they are going to say to be a UFC champion. 2016 was the year though where you saw UFC fighters making the jump to Bellator, some being recognized as the biggest free agency signings in sports.

Starting the switch was former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. After finishing out his contract at the end of 2015, he announced on February 1st that he was signing over with the rival promotion, joining their lightweight division.

Soon to follow included former UFC Heavyweight Matt Mitrione. Following a controversial loss to Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night 81 in January, opted out of renewing his contract with the UFC and announced his move to Bellator on March 14th.

Former UFC welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald joined Henderson and Mitrione following a loss to top UFC welterweight Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson when he made his announcement in August. With the announcement came the goal of being both the welterweight and middleweight champion for the promotion.

Perhaps the biggest signing of them all came in September when WEC/UFC vet Chael Sonnen came off of his 2-year suspension/retirement and signed with the promotion. This was a move that came as a huge shock to the fight community. Sonnen is set to make his debut in January at Bellator 170 against long-time rival and UFC Hall of Famer, Tito Ortiz.

While these are huge gains for Bellator, I think it is also be noted that Bellator 170 is set to take place on January 21st, 2017 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Originially, the UFC had scheduled the first pay-per-view of 2017, UFC 208, for the same date at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Usually in this instance, Bellator tends to base their schedule around big UFC cards, usually making them the night before or earlier in the day. In a turn of the tables, UFC delayed UFC 208 to February and moved it to Brooklyn, leaving the UFC with no pay-per-view card in January.

If this date and location change was due to Bellator’s event or not is something we will probably never know, but I do believe this is a huge victory of Bellator.

Will Bellator ever reach the same status UFC? It’s not likely. But the rise of Bellator MMA is a huge asset to growing the sport as a whole and keeping the UFC on their toes.

P.S. @BellatorMMA – where’s our NY card?

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Kristine is a Managing Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as UFC/MMA Lead Writer. She also hosts a column known as Fighting Words.
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