Combined martial arts won’t ever expertise something like this yr’s NBA commerce deadline — when second-round draft picks seemingly was Monopoly cash — nevertheless it’s enjoyable to dream.
So, within the spirit of all of the drama that unfolded on the hardwood, listed below are a couple of trades we might prefer to see happen in MMA. And whereas trades are a rarity on this sport, this did really occur in MMA not too way back, when the UFC and One Championship reached an settlement to swap the contracts of Ben Askren and Demetrious Johnson. So, by no means say by no means.
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim provide up their concepts for potential strikes that might profit the game’s prime promotions or fighters due for a change of surroundings.
Featherweight all-time nice to Bellator
Few would deny that Holloway is the second-best 145-pounder within the UFC. Sadly for him, he has misplaced thrice to one of the best at 145, champion Alexander Volkanovski. So, with Holloway’s upward mobility severely restricted, why not give the satisfaction of Hawaii a homecoming? Bellator has staged six struggle playing cards in Honolulu since 2018 and can revisit the town for 2 extra occasions in April. The UFC, alternatively, has by no means set foot on the islands in its 636-event historical past, regardless of Hawaii being the house of two of its all-time nice champions, Holloway and BJ Penn. If Bellator have been to carry Holloway residence, maybe in a title struggle with the promotion’s biggest ever, Patrick “Pitbull” Freireit could be a “Blessed” occasion.
If I am UFC chief enterprise officer Hunter Campbell on the negotiating desk, the primary title out of my mouth could be AJ McKeehowever I think about Bellator is not going to let go of its homegrown star. So, ask for Eblen, as a substitute. He’s maybe one of the best fighter in Bellator proper now, though he would not get the popularity of McKee or Pitbull. Possibly Bellator CEO Scott Coker could be keen to surrender his 185-pound champ for the elegant alternative to carry Holloway aboard. And what an addition Eblen could be to the UFC middleweight division. — Wagenheim
“MVP” strikes to the UFC
Costa’s latest tweets recommend he’s sad with the UFC and his contract. The Brazilian slugger might use a change of surroundings. Costa continues to be among the finest middleweights on the earth, and he has a big fan base attributable to his extraordinarily irreverent humor on Twitter, his ripped physique and his continued touting of “secret juice.” Bellator, in the meantime, might use one other elite fighter at middleweight, the place Eblen has the potential to be a dominant champion. Costa additionally has star potential and attainable drawing energy. He’s somebody Bellator can construct up, and he already has an in depth relationship with the “Pitbull” brothers, two key cogs on Bellator’s roster.
Michael “Venom” Web page — usually simply known as “MVP” — appears to be treading water in Bellator. He has fought solely as soon as for the promotion since October 2021, and he was even loaned out final yr to face Mike Perry in a Naked Knuckle FC matchup, which Perry gained by way of cut up determination. Web page has proved himself to be one of many prime welterweights in Bellator. The issue is that the fellows forward of him at 170 kilos — Yaroslav Amosov and Logan Storley — are glorious wrestlers and signify a stylistic mismatch for “MVP,” who’s a wildly thrilling karate fighter. Web page has possible hit his ceiling in Bellator, and the UFC is at all times out there for motion fighters. You might throw him in there with the likes of Kevin Holland and produce fireworks. And better of all, a possible struggle with fellow karateka Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson could be a basic. — Raimondi
PFL will get one other girls’s MMA star
The one factor PFL wants greater than something is a big-money opponent for Kayla Harrisonand Cyborg is the most suitable choice. Sure, Harrison misplaced in her final bout to Larissa Pacheco. However Harrison additionally has overwhelmed Pacheco twice and has been dominant in any other case. She can also be, simply, the largest title on the PFL roster. Cyborg loves preventing for Bellator and has a protracted historical past with promoter Scott Coker. However she is also 37 years previous and will not be preventing perpetually. Who is aware of how her boxing profession will play out, however a Harrison bout could possibly be her final probability at an enormous payday. Bellator would not have a girl at 145 kilos or up who can headline a significant present with Cyborg. The identical goes for PFL and Harrison. That struggle must occur. There already has been loads of trash discuss between the 2.
Bellator would certainly demand rather a lot in return for Cyborg, who’s essentially the most achieved fighter on its roster and a professional draw. PFL must be keen to half methods with high-level expertise, and Burgos and Ditcheva match that invoice. Burgos is an motion fighter who might contend in Bellator’s featherweight or light-weight division immediately. Each divisions are strengths for Bellator — this yr’s light-weight grand prix ought to be glorious — however Burgos can add depth and thrilling bouts with almost everybody within the rankings. In the meantime, Ditcheva is a 24-year-old prospect whom PFL may be very excessive on. She is a terrific striker, and he or she is marketable. Bellator might badly use extra stars and depth at 125 kilos, and Ditcheva could possibly be the longer term face of that division. — Raimondi
UFC lands Harrison
UFC receives: PFL girls’s light-weight Kayla Harrison
PFL receives: UFC middleweight Paulo Costa and males’s featherweight Josh Emmett
Harrison vs. Amanda Nunes simply is sensible. Though this matchup misplaced a tiny little bit of luster when Harrison suffered the primary defeat of her profession in November, that is nonetheless a pay-per-view-worthy primary occasion. And Nunes is desperately in want of a brand new problem.
And whereas Harrison has been the face of PFL for years and the corporate would strongly resist giving her up, until it could possibly signal Cyborg, there aren’t any large fights left for Harrison in PFL. Pacheco is the one one, however the two have already fought thrice. What number of instances can PFL package deal this matchup? If the corporate cannot signal Cyborg, then getting one thing in return for Harrison may profit everybody.
The PFL is entering into the pay-per-view enterprise, because it introduced earlier this yr alongside Jake Paul. However the common season continues to be its bread and butter, and the addition of two former UFC title challengers would inject life and curiosity into that format.
Emmett simply got here up quick in opposition to yair rodriguez in an interim featherweight title bout at UFC 284. Emmett nonetheless has a lot to supply and is without doubt one of the hardest hitters within the division. Quite than seeing him attempt to scratch and claw his approach again to a title shot, how about watching him struggle at light-weight 4 instances in a single yr for a $1 million prize, in a division that has the likes of Burgos and Olivier Aubin-Mercier? Costa has one struggle left within the UFC and has been vocal about wanting to check different choices. Have him struggle within the common season at mild heavyweight. Everybody wins. — Okamoto
Bellator provides depth at girls’s featherweight in three-way deal
Bellator receives: your entire UFC girls’s featherweight roster (minus Amanda Nunes)
One Championship receives: Bellator bantamweight Danny Sabatello
UFC receives: One males’s strawweight champion Jarred Brooks
I’ve at all times beloved three-way trades in sports activities, primarily as a result of I am curious how three organizations navigate the wheeling and dealing: OK, appears like we’re in settlement; let me put you on maintain and go test with the opposite man. Enjoyable, enjoyable, enjoyable.
If Bellator hopes to entice Cyborg again into the fold, it wants to offer her with some competitors. May a unique Nunes, this one named Josiane (with a 10-1 document), put up a struggle? How about Macy Chiasson, Norma Dumont or Stephanie Egger? This deal would immediately fill out the Bellator girls’s featherweight roster with seven new names and would open the door for these girls to step up for greater fights.
On the identical time, the UFC would lastly be performed with a weight class it has uncared for for years, whereas additionally bolstering a division that’s now lastly flourishing. In One Championship, strawweights compete at 125 kilos, and Brooks is unbeaten in six fights since a 2-2 run within the UFC, which included a cut up determination loss to Deiveson Figueiredo and a weird defeat during which Brooks knocked himself out whereas executing a slam. May Brooks be a contender within the UFC? Let’s discover out.
As for One, Johnson and Adriano Moraes will full their championship trilogy in Might, however what occurs after that for the 135-pound title? One thing tells me Sabatello could be a favourite in Asia, the place the genteel followers recognize fighters like him who, ahem, conduct themselves respectfully. — Wagenheim
PFL provides two heavyweight contenders
Including Blaydes and Rozenstruik could be an enormous improve to the PFL’s heavyweight division, and let’s face it: Heavyweight is the division followers most care about in fight sports activities. These two have hovered in UFC title competition for years, however there at all times appears to be a site visitors jam simply above them on the prime tier. So as a substitute of ready for Ciryl Gane, Jon Jones or others to type issues out, Blaydes and Rozenstruik can as a substitute go for the $1 million payday that comes with a PFL championship.
As for the UFC, Loughnane and Wilkinson have been as soon as effectively throughout the sights of Dana White & Co. Loughnane even appeared to do sufficient to earn a UFC contract with a dominant win on “Dana White’s Contender Collection.” in 2019, however was not supplied a deal. This commerce grants the UFC a mulligan. Wilkinson has gained six fights in a row — all finishes — since an 0-2 run within the UFC that included the Octagon debut of Israel Adesanya in 2018. Loughnane and Wilkinson every has what it takes to create large alternatives within the UFC. — Wagenheim
One Championship will get former UFC champion
Figueiredo’s days at flyweight are over after a second loss to champion Brandon Moreno. Figueiredo will transfer to bantamweight and might be aggressive there, however the UFC’s 135-pound division is full of greater fighters and dominant wrestlers and grapplers. With One’s weight-cutting guidelines, Figueiredo might stay a “flyweight,” One’s designation for 135-pound fighters, and proceed to compete in opposition to opponents his personal dimension. One would possible be salivating over potential matchups for Figueiredo in opposition to the likes of Johnson, John Lineker and even Rodtang Jitmuangnon in a mixed-rules bout. “The God of Struggle” could be an ideal match for the Singapore-based promotion.
Figueiredo’s contract mustn’t come low-cost. He’s a former two-time UFC flyweight champion. So, how about One provides Le, the promotion’s former 155-pound champion. It is nearly odd Le is not already with the UFC. He’s a former Legacy Preventing Alliance featherweight champion with a knockout win on “Dana White’s Contender Collection.” He additionally was on “The Final Fighter 22” in 2015. Le is a knockout artist with a enjoyable, karate-based fashion. He completed all of his One victories by way of KO/TKO. It could be intriguing to see him in opposition to Rodriguez, “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Young or Old Giga. — Raimondi