Ex-UFC Champ Ricco Rodriguez Not Signed To Bellator

Ricco Rodriguez and Tito Ortiz in their UFC glory days.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez has been on the comeback trail for a long time. The 33 year old went 5-2 in the UFC from 2001-2003 and took the title from Randy Couture. Unfortunately he lost it immediately to Tim Sylvia, went to Japan and lost a much-disputed decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Pride (Ricco was 3-1 in Pride) and then lost a hideously dull UFC bout to Pedro Rizzo that was the final Octagon appearance for both men. 

After that it was down hill for Ricco as he struggled with addiction, gained enormous amounts of weight, and didn't take his career at all seriously. But he's been working hard to turn things around over the past 3 years.

Since his 2008 appearance on Celebrity Rehab, he's posted a very respectable 17-4 record (losses to Antonio Silva, Jeff Monson, Travis Wiuff and Mario Rinaldi) and has put together a 10-fight winning streak since July 2009. He'll face UFC-vet James McSweeny in a 215 pound catchweight bout at BAMMA 5 on February 26.

Now he's telling MMA Weekly that he's signed a contract with Bellator and wants to participate in their 205 pound tournament:
"To be honest with you, I signed the Bellator contract and just waiting to get permission from MTV. Everyone wants me to do something, but they're just concerned with my past, if I'm going to be hard to work with. It's a great opportunity for Bellator, I would love to fight in that competition, it's going to be great exposure, I just think Bellator's going to blow up on the scene," Rodriguez said.

Currently training in England with the Wolfslair, Rodriguez has been there for just over a month working with the team and is in the closing stages for his fight against McSweeney next week in BAMMA.

After that fight is complete, Rodriguez plans to talk to Bellator to discuss his role with the promotion. At this time, Rodriguez has not been offered a slot in the upcoming light heavyweight tournament, but the promotion hasn't filled all the available openings so he could end up in the field of 8.

"Right now I'm just focused on BAMMA, the opportunity, I put it out there I signed the contract with Bjorn (Rebney) and Bellator, and I'm just waiting for them," Rodriguez stated.
...
"This is it," stated Rodriguez. "This is my opportunity to go out there and end my career as a champion, and I would love the opportunity to fight in that 205lb tournament."

SBN's Luke Thomas is intrigued at the prospect of Rodriguez going to Bellator:

There's been nothing official from Bellator about where matters stand with Rodriguez, but ones hopes his drop to light heavyweight means he'll be in this season's tourney. He'd be an excellent test for Nik Fekete and could perhaps give himself the career boost he's been groping after for so long.    

At the turn of the millennium, as the BJJ Worlds and Abu Dhabi submission grappling champion Rodriguez was one of the top talents in the sport. He reached the top of the heap with his win over Randy Couture and then immediately fell from grace. Regardless of whether or not he ever wins another major title, it's inspiring to see him turn his life and career around. 

UPDATE: MMA Junkie spoke to Bjorn Rebney, boss man of Bellator:

"Ricco's a great fighter enjoying a spectacular rebirth to his career, but he is not signed to Bellator," Rebeny said when reached for comment.

Sherdog has more:

Sherdog.com has learned from a source close to the promotion that Rodriguez has not signed with Bellator, therefore rendering rumors of Rodriguez's possible participation in the upcoming fourth-season light heavyweight tournament unlikely. According to the source, eight competitors plus an alternate are greenlit to compete in the tournament, and Rodriguez is not among them.

Following that lead, Sherdog.com then contacted another source close to the situation, who asserted that Rodriguez had simply jumped the gun on his announcement and that a verbal agreement was made between the parties pending approval from MTV. Bellator's season four events will air live on MTV2.

Sherdog.com's source close to the promotion stated that only casual talks have taken place recently between Rodriguez and Bellator.

Rodriguez's manager, Ken Pavia, issued this statement when contacted for comment:

"Ricco is in continuing negotiations with Bellator while hoping they will be able to make the deal. We believe there is mutual interest. It is Ricco's sincere desire to not only compete in Bellator, but hopefully end his career in Bellator."

HT BE readers castleeb and fitefan

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