Bellator MMA recently released additional card details for their Bellator 123 card in September, and it’s looking to be a stacked event. It needs to be given its going up against a UFC Fight Night card the very same night. Headlined by a featherweight title fight between champ Pat Curran and the ever-dangerous Patricio “Pitbull” Friere, the bout also includes appearances from big-name Bellator fighters “King” Mo Lawal and Cheick Kongo.
Also on the card: TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Lashley.
That’s a name that, while not completely surprising, caused the MMA world to take note this week. Lashely had previously been linked to the WSOF, has fought as recently as November 2013 for XFN and had recently signed on with TNA wrestling, quickly becoming their champ. This caused many to wonder if he would move to Bellator as well, working in both promotions as fellow fighters King Mo and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have.
Bellator, and Spike TV (which airs both Bellator and TNA wrestling), are no doubt hoping for something of a “Brock Lesnar effect” when it comes to Lashely. He’s a big, marketable monster with crossover appeal. Lashley however, in his WWE days, was never pushed as hard as Lesnar, and never received the same magnitude of success.
His return to the pro wrestling world and quick capture of the TNA title speaks more to the lack of star power TNA currently possess than Lashley’s ability to really draw in fans. His MMA record, while better percentage wise than Lesner (Lashley is 10-2 while Lesnar’s career record is 4-2), pales in comparison.
Essentially, Lesnar fought nothing but top guys during his MMA career. Heath Herring was a legit if not spectacular fighter. Lesnar fought Frank Mir twice, going 1-1 in their two bouts. He defeated Randy Couture and Shane Carwin in title bouts as well. His losses came to two of the best: Cain Velasquez, who many now consider the best heavyweight of all time, and Alistair Overeem, the former K-1, Dream and Strikeforce champion.
There was no middle ground with Lesnar. Lashley, meanwhile, despite an admirable 10-2 record as a pro, just isn’t at the same level. Each time he has faced a step up in competition — against Chad Griggs in Strikeforce, and James Thompson at SFL 3 — he has come up short. Aside from those two losses, the notable names on his record include Bob Sapp and Wes Sims. While known names, neither of those are top caliber competition.
So while Lashley might have a bit of curiosity factor to him, he’s far from the draw Lesnar was, and it’s probably too late in the game for him to really develop as a fighter. Bellator are giving him an easy out with a bout against Josh Burns (8-7) at Bellator 123 (at least they didn’t give him Eric Smith), so it’s likely that they want to protect their investment and are at least somewhat aware that Lashley won’t be the savior Bellator is really looking for (especially if Eddie Alvarez walks and Rampage retires or moves on).