Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard is currently not under contract to the organization, and while they have exclusive negotiating rights for a little while longer, he could become a free agent in either late April or early May. The news comes from Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, who spoke to MMA Mania's Brian Hemminger about the issue:
"We've got the right to match on any deal. We're either gonna sign him before he goes out the to marketplace or he's going to go out to the marketplace and we're gonna have a determination as to whether we're gonna match or not match and we're gonna see where it ends up. I love the guy and he's an awesome talent. He's been nothing but a pure pleasure for me to work with. He's been a great guy for me to work with and he's done everything we've asked him to do and every time I've put him in a cage, he's knocked people silly. You can't really ask for more than that from a guy."
Clearly the UFC would be interested, and Dana White even mentioned Lombard when he was in Australia for UFC on FX 2:
"I guess he's pretty popular down here," White said. "I hear he's under contract though with someone else, so we'll see. I'll probably end up with him. If he wants to fight in the UFC, then we'll probably end up with him."
It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next couple of months. If Bellator can't re-sign him before he goes on the open market, the UFC is likely to offer him a deal and Bellator would have 30 days to match any offer. Can the UFC price Bellator out of the race, or would Viacom come up with some big money to keep their middleweight champion? Time will tell.