This one is going to sting a little for Bellator. Joe Riggs (40-14), the winner of Fight Master: Bellator MMA, an Ultimate Fighter-inspired show that aired on Spike TV in 2013, is reported to be returning to the UFC. The news was first reported by Combate.
Riggs won $100,000 in the finale for the show, winning the welterweight tournament at Bellator 103 in a match against Mike Bronzoulis. That payout included $5,000 to show and a $95,000 win bonus. Unlike The Ultimate Fighter, Fight Master had contestants fighting for a spot in the organization’s welterweight tournament and for cold hard cash — not money broken down over the length of a contract. With Bellator moving away from the tournament format, it appears that show-winner Riggs is free to move on.
Still, this has to sting for Bellator; they handed over $100,000 to a fighter who has not fought since that bout and is now apparently forgoing the organization altogether to return to the UFC, where he last fought in 2006. On top of that, Fight Master was a flop, and there has been zero talk of a second season for the show, which allowed fighters to choose their own coaches/camps from Greg Jackson, Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren. Riggs, for the record, opted to train with Jackson.
Riggs is now linked to a fight with Paulo Thiago at UFC Fight Night 51 and will be replacing the injured Mike Rhodes. The card takes place in Brazil on Sept. 13 and is headlined by Andrei Arlovski vs. Bigfoot Silva.
This is a wise move for Riggs, who, after some personal turmoil and early-career troubles, seems to have turned things back around. In his original UFC run, he was granted a title shot against Matt Hughes on short notice but missed weight for the bout. Riggs was also a former WEC champion in their middleweight division. With Bellator going in a new direction, it’s the perfect time for the 31-year-old to attempt one last run in the UFC.