Bellator fighter!— Diego Nunes (@thegunnunes) June 10, 2013
Despite recent struggles Nunes is a major pickup for Bellator's featherweight division. With wins over both Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan, as well as flashes of potential that have never quite died away (at 30 he only has 4 losses in his career and none by stoppage), Nunes is still amongst the top 30 featherweights in the world.
I don't know if that makes his UFC release premature, he definitely seemed to sputter badly in fights against Nik Lentz, Dennis Siver, and Kenny Florian. Even his win over Mike Brown saw him struggle against what appeared to be a faded version of a good fighter. All of that lent fuel to the idea that the UFC was paying a decent amount of money to a fighter that had very little chance of making a run at the division's title. It also still makes him a very good pickup for Bellator.
A change of venue and pace may be just what the former Nova Uniao product (now at X-Gym) needs to rejuvenate his career. And much like Ben Saunders before him, I could easily see him becoming a divisional mainstay in the Viacom promotion. It's obvious that as Bellator settles comfortably into a competitive position in the MMA landscape fighters like Nunes are becoming a much more core element of their business plan.
Recognizable names will bring flashes of interest to their tournament structure and the fighters who beat them can claim to compete at a level with anyone in the world and the UFC vets who find success can claim to have found a more welcoming home for their talents. It may not be the long term plan that Rebney envisioned years ago, but adaptation is the necessity of survival, and fighters like Nunes are necessary for keeping eyes on Bellator.
No debut has been announced for the fighter, and it is unknown if he will be competing in the next featherweight tournament, but we'll be sure to keep you posted with updates as they arrive.