It appears that what many have mused regarding Yushin Okami, his UFC cut and whether or not Bellator MMA might be interested in signing him, could well be true; Bellator might take a pass on the number six ranked middleweight, and timing could have a great deal to do with the decision.
In commenting on the subject this past Friday night, Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney, stated that he might be interested in the 13 & 5 senior promotion fighter, however, he was simply too busy to consider the option, right now; consequently, he “(didn’t) know”
In considering it, it’s a predictable response.
Bellator is a round-robin, tournament style promotion, and as such, they need both a tournament and slot to put him in. More to the point, Bellator is currently in the middle of their 185 pound series, with the semi-finals taking place this coming Friday night, and until that’s concluded and from Rebney’s perspective, there’s seems to be no reason or hurry to sign Okami.
In speaking with MMAjunkie.com, Rebney stated of Okami and the timing:
"He's an entertaining fighter. Obviously, has had a little bit of a skid as of late, but I really haven't given it much consideration. We've got the week-by-week (tournament). I'll go home and rest and see my wife for a few hours and go right back to work on Saturday. Tough question, (I) haven't given it a lot of thought. I did hear about it, because I'm on Twitter and I read everything, but I don't really have a definitive statement of a yay or a nay."
"There are times during the year that open up, where we've got a lot more flexibility to consider stuff and then there are other times where we're just like a train on the track."
Of course and unfortunately for Okami, Bellator’s season nine tournaments started on September 7th, four days after his loss to Jacare Souza, so Yushin missed that train.
The upside for “Thunder” regarding Rebney's comments is that at least he referred to him as an “entertaining fighter”, which is something that Bjorn’s counterpart at the UFC obviously no longer thinks.
However, the downside of Rebney’s remarks is the apathy they reflect.
As Rebney would be well acquainted with Okami’s record, ranking, fighting style and history, it would be reasonable to argue that if he was really interested in Yushin and bringing him into Bellator, that he wouldn’t be obviating on the question, and that regardless of how busy he is or that Bellator’s tournaments are currently underway, he’d make a more declarative statement.
However as he has not, it’s reasonable to postulate that perhaps Bellator is no more interested in Okami’s decision heavy style, then the UFC was.
Evidence of that might be in Bellator’s lack of interest in re-signing their welterweight champion, Ben Askren. In August Rebney took a pass on the 12 & 0, 50% decision rate fighter, saying that his style wasn’t for “everyone”.
Some put this down to a negotiating tactic on Bellator’s behalf, in an attempt to force a lowball price on Askren’s services. However, the UFC hasn’t offered a deal to Askren and his wrestling heavy style, either. Subsequently, no negotiating advantage was garnered by Bellator. Resultantly, both promotins seem to be taking a pass on Askren.
Beyond that, it begs the question of why, even at a discounted price, would Bellator want to sign Askren if they’re unhappy with his decision percentages? A boring fighter, even at a reduced price, is still a boring fighter and if that’s not what Bellator is interested in having, particularly as a champion of a weight class, then even a low price is probably still too high.
If indeed this is Bellator’s thought process regarding Askren, then it’s easy to understand how Rebney might not be interested in Okami and his 48% decision rate. If so, then this is demonstrative of the two promotions (UFC / Bellator) being in alignment regarding the employment of decision heavy fighters, and as such, the market now apprears to be purging itself of their type.
Further evidence of their like-mindedness, would be the case of Jon Fitch. Bellator could have easily done a deal with Fitch back in February, yet they failed to do so. Again, the only reason that one can legitimately argue for Bellator not wanting to sign the top-ten ranked UFC fighter, one with marquis value, is that the promotion was underwhelmed by Fitch’s fighting style and decision percentages (58%).
All things considered, it looks like Okami’s only (immediate) option could be the WSOF and that if he’s waiting around for a call from Bellator, he might be waiting a long time. Beyond that, it’s all indicative of both promotions wanting to weed out their decision fighters.