The urban legend for years in MMA’s silver age was that Frank Shamrock had carved his initials into the back of the UFC’s middleweight championship belt. Shamrock was so dominant in the then 205-pound middleweight division that he felt confident enough to claim it with his own initials so that as the belt passed from champion to champion each new champion would know that the alpha point of that belt began with FJS—Frank Juarez Shamrock.
Whether or not it’s true, it instantly gives an already heavy UFC belt a nice shot of mystique to add to its prestige.
The UFC belts are of course the more well-known, but it doesn’t mean they are the best even if they represent the best. From an aesthetic point of view, the grand prix tournament belts from Pride FC are pretty much the gold standard for most MMA fans. However, whatever the strap from whatever the promotion, the belt itself symbolizes, at least it should symbolize, the zenith. So, what does it say that two of Bellator’s most well-known fighters seem a little disenfranchised with Bellator’s titles?
While appearing on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour on Monday, Eddie Alvarez, who had to withdraw from Bellator’s inaugural PPV due to a concussion said of his opponent Michael Chandler, “He’s angry because I beat him and I’m the champion, and he has to fight for a sh—y belt that adds up to nothing. He can say whatever he wants to say.” The shifty belt Alvarez is referring to is the interim title that Bellator is creating while Alvarez recovers from his injury. However, out of context, one could read that as an indictment on Bellator’s belts in general.
Of course, the backstory involving Alvarez, his free agency status, and this being his last fight on his Bellator contract makes it less surprising that there is some bitterness on Alvarez’s part. Still, to go public about his feelings on the eve of his promotion’s first outing into the PPV model seems like bad timing. In fact, Alvarez came out today and apologized for the comments.
Of course, Alvarez isn’t the only fighter on the Bellator roster who seems to have an aversion to Bellator’s belts. Rampage Jackson, who now headlines Bellator’s inaugural PPV card with King Mo Lawal, went on record recently as saying he, too, isn’t looking forward to fighting for a Bellator belt. “I really don’t care for the belt,” Rampage said. Granted, his disinterest may be guided by the fact that he is training partners with the Emanuel Newton, Bellator’s light-heavyweight champion, but it’s still odd that a top name like Rampage isn’t keen on fighting for the championship.
It seems to me that the amount of work a fighter puts in, regardless of promotion, should be rewarded, but what does it say about Bellator if the fighters themselves don’t find any value in the ultimate reward—the belt?
It’s been widely speculated that Bellator pays its fighters well, and considering the deep pockets from its Viacom umbrella, it’s a wonder why more fighters aren’t flocking to Bellator or even considering it once they part ways with the UFC. However, if the issues Zoila Frausto Gurgel or Patricio Freire have with Bellator are any indication, perhaps it’s no surprise that the very fighters under the Bellator banner would rather stay away from belts they feel stand for very little.