Flying the Flag: A Win for Hector Lombard at UFC 149 is a Win for Bellator

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 149 has been wrought with injuries since its announcement a few months ago. However, one aspect of the card that injuries have made more intriguing is the shifting of Hector Lombard’s first appearance in the Octagon to this event. The former Bellator middleweight champion, who’s riding an impressive win streak, has been saying that he is the best middleweight in the world for years. Now it’s time for him to take steps to prove it. However, as important as this bout is to Lombard, in many ways, his former employers and co-workers have just as much at stake.

The fighter known has “Lighting” has been just that during the last few years. Prone to saying whatever he wants, no matter who it upsets, Lombard has been calling out name after name to make himself relevant in the sport. Unlike some others, however, he’s backed up his talk by staying undefeated for the last six years. While he hasn’t been fighting top names in the sport, he’s finished an impressive 19 fighters over that time period — not a feat to bat an eye at. The former champion is facing the most important fight of his career when he stands across the cage from Tim Boetsch on the 21st of July. He has a lot riding on this bout, including a potential title shot, if he can add another clip to his highlight reel.

Yet watching intently from Chicago will be Bellator Fighting Championship Chairman Bjorn Rebney, and others within the organization. Lombard is the first big name fighter that has been groomed in their company, and has left for the big stage of the UFC. They have to be hoping that their former champion walks into the Octagon and puts on a show that excites the fans and media. Why? Because that makes their product much more viable as an alternative to the UFC.

If their former champion walks into the cage and sends the surging Boetsch home with a loss, you can expect Bellator to begin tooting its horn, reminding people that it housed one of the greatest middleweights in the sport within its organization. You can also expect the promotion to begin posting some of Lombard’s highlight videos to its website, to garner increased web traffic, and perhaps new eyes to its product at the same time. The company will find a way to use Lombard’s past achievements in Bellator’s circular cage to catch the attention of MMA fans who would be looking for more information on the newest fighter to make noise in the UFC’s middleweight division. A big win for Lombard gives Bellator a reason to say, “Hey look at us! We are the reason Lombard is great!”

At the same time, Lombard’s former Bellator co-workers are also hoping he goes into the Octagon and gives the MMA world something to talk about. Eddie Alvarez, for example, is looking to make the jump from Bellator to the UFC as soon as possible. Many people question the champions of Bellator, and wonder if they would fare as well in the Octagon. Lombard is the first fighter to become a test subject in the debate, and if he does well, it will open the eyes of Zuffa executives to the potential value of other BFC athletes. Alvarez has been a highly ranked lightweight for years, but he could potentially see an increase in his worth if Lombard wins big. The UFC is already interested in him, so his value will only increase once the “credibility” of Bellator is verified by a Lombard win next week.

 Conversely, a loss does damage to both the Bellator organization and the fighters still under its banner. If Boetsch torches Lombard in a way that deflates all the hype that has built up around him, many will point towards that result as proof that Bellator cannot produce top quality talent, and question the validity of what its fighters are currently doing. Unfair or not, that’s how the argument goes when the UFC has created such a stranglehold on the sport. Current champions, such as Michael Chandler and Ben Askren, are competing hard to raise the value of the belts that they carry, and they need Lombard to do well to draw some attention towards what they are doing. If he falters and falters badly, then their work becomes slightly devalued.

The UFC middleweight division has suddenly found itself undergoing a rebirth of sorts, with a number of viable contenders getting in line for a title shot. Hector Lombard’s quest to become the first champion from a major non-Zuffa promotion to come over to the Octagon and take a UFC title begins at UFC 149. If he moves one step closer, his former employers and co-workers will be cheering right along with him.

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