I still remember Andre Arlovski's last fight in the UFC, which really wasn't very memorable at all, since it a fight against Jake O'Brien that was relegated to the prelims of UFC 82. I was still new to the sport at the time and was puzzled as to why a fight between the former UFC Heavyweight Champion and a then 10-0 O'Brien was stuck in the prelims. On paper it was a way more marketable fight than Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson which made the main card. It was even arguably a better fight than the heavyweight fight that did make the main card, Cheick Kongo vs. Heath Herring. Fast forward a few years and I now get it. Dana White and Joe Silva did not want to showcase Arlovski, since he was on the final fight of his contract and considering a move to another promotion.
Not too different than old school professional wrestling where the top star was scripted to go out in a "loser leaves town match" or drop the belt before moving on to another promotion. In some cases, the impending departure was known for months and the wrestler was simply buried, not placed on tv, or jobbed to make newer stars look better. It was used to protect the promotion and show that no fighter is bigger than the promotion. A proven formula that worked.
So what was Bellator thinking in placing Pitbull up against Eddie Alvarez last night? Were they hoping to see a top prospect that was still not a big name take out a disgruntled former champion on his way out like Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz or Glover Teixeira vs. Rampage Jackson? If they were, it didn't work as Eddie Alvarez dusted Pitbull and will now use the fight as a launching pad to a new deal with the UFC while Bellator is left with a person that they hoped could help fill Alvarez's shoes appearing as damaged goods.
Would Bellator have been better served main eventing Alvarez against an imported fighter with little to no ties to Bellator's long term future like they did when they matched Alvarez up against Shinya Aoki? Maybe Joachim Hansen,or another Japanese import with a name would have been a more appropriate opponent? It still would have put Bellator in a position to leverage Alvarez's name and box office drawing power without compromising its long term investment in Pitbull. Or ,maybe have Alvarez fight someone on the roster that is a well-known veteran journeyman with name recognition like Rich Clementi or Kurt Pellegrino in a "Super Fight."
I am sure Bjorn Rebney's heart was in placing the best fight possible for the fans and the fighters. However, in doing so, did he damage the equity in both Bellator and Pitbull's brands? Will the level of competition in Bellator become even more suspect if Alvarez comes into the UFC and drops his first fight against say a Joe Lauzon or Matt Wiman, much like Hector Lombard losing to Tim Boestch? This is very possible since the level of competition in the UFC, especially in the lightweight division is very deep and there is not such thing as an easy fight. Just something for Bellator to think about down the road if say Michael Chandler or Pat Curran decide to test the waters elsewhere.