At a time when Bellator has ramped up its spending and declared its intention to supplant UFC as the number one MMA organization in the world, an interesting thing has happened... they have stopped signing highly rated prospects.
(I know that some of these prospects have not impressed to this point, but I'm looking at this as to how these fighters were looked at when they were signed. I also fully expect half of big time prospects to finish their careers without reaching their perceived potential no matter what organization they fight for)
In just the last six month UFC has signed highly rated prospects such as -
MW - Sean Strickland
LHW - Pat Cummins, Jan Blachowicz
Highly rated prospects signed by Bellator in last six months -
FW - Darrion Caldwell
MW- Ben Reiter
LHW- Brandon Halsey
A couple of things have happened in the last six months that really have swung things in this direction.
1) UFC announced they were going to be running between 45-50 events in 2014, meaning that they needed to fill their roster with more fighters. While they have added some veterans, journeymen, and low tier fighters to appeal to a specific market, UFC has also been signing the very best prospects in the sport at a rapid rate.
2) The other thing that has happened is that Bellator successfully finished blocking Eddie Alvarez from his stated desire to fight for the UFC, and the UFC passed on Ben Askren even when Bellator released him from his matching rights. Bellator went from an organization that helped land Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez big time offers from the UFC, to the organization that will be a hindrance to top fighters trying to reach the UFC. I've never heard a young fighter say that being a Bellator champion is their dream... those type of comments always revolve around the UFC. This also came at a time when organizations such as WSOF, RFA, Jungle Fights, Legacy, Titan and others have established themselves as places trying to get their fighters to the UFC.
Bellator has a very good corps of top 15 fighters in the world on their roster, but they must find ways to bring in top young talent to replenish their roster. This years Lightweight, and Featherweight tournaments were largely looked at as tournaments with no real challengers to the Bellator top tier that includes fighters like Chandler, Alvarez, Straus, and Curran. Bellator has produced numerous champions by working with them from prospect to contender. Michael Chandler, Ben Askren, Cole Konrad, and Joe Warren all signing with Bellator early in their careers, but that level of prospect seems to be drying up at a time when Bellator is reaching for bigger and better things. Bellator continues to bring in good talent, but the guys with world top 10-25 working ranking ceilings are becoming an exception instead of a common occurrence.