A highly touted former champion getting an immediate opportunity may not be strange in most promotions, but Bellator has always prided itself on it's "real sport" format, where winning tournaments gets you title shots. The basis for the Bellator credo of "title shots are earned, not given."
Pat Curran lost his last fight, but is slated for another Championship shot next week in Hammond, Indiana against Straus. There has been a lot of criticism on why Curran is getting the shot even though he didn’t go through the tournament rounds. Is there a specific reason why Curran got the immediate title rematch?
I had to weigh and balance a lot of factors. Frodo Khasbulaev was the next in line, but he is having a lot of visa issues getting into the country. Next fighter would have been Pitbull but he fought for us literally 5 times on Spike-TV. Curran and Straus, this is their trilogy fight. Given how high Pat was on many rankings I think he was the number 2 in this division and I think this fight is the best match-up for us at the current time.Plus with Pat fighting in his backyard it’s going to be a great trilogy fight.
Bellator seems to continue finding convenient ways to excuse circumventing their own policies with title shots. This may be the most interesting so far.
The promotion announced the adoption of a "rematch clause" in 2012 in a Rebney "letter to the fans" which has since been removed from the website. The letter read:
I am proud to announce that driven by your input; we will implement a championship fight rematch clause as we move into 2013 and our launch on Spike in January. When a fighter’s earned a shot at the world title by winning The Toughest Tournament in Sports and competes in a title fight that knocks fans like us back in our seats (win or lose) delivering an incredible fight, when a rematch is called for, we will deliver it.
Straus/Curran at Bellator 106 was not an exciting fight, a fact that I find disappointing given how much I enjoy watching both men compete.
There was no controversy to the scoring, Straus clearly deserved the victory.
So under the Bellator criteria, this is not a situation that deserves a rematch. And Rebney's reasoning for the rematch goes far away from the "sport first" image. Pitbull is the deserving guy based on their criteria but he...fought on Spike too much? What does that matter? Is that a hard limit for other fighters? Fight on Spike too much and no title shot for you if we have something we'd rather do?
And Rebney stating that this is "the best match-up for us right now" drives home the point. The intention of Bellator was to be based on tournament results and "sport first," but the idea of picking the best matchup for the promotion is just fight business as usual. If they want to go that direction, I'm all for it.
But at least be honest about it all.