What does it say when Royce Gracie, the man who first put the UFC on the map — who introduced MMA to the world — aligns himself with your biggest competitor? You’re telling me the UFC couldn’t find a spot on the payroll for the Godfather of MMA? C’mon son. If you’re Dana White, why would you let yet another UFC Hall of Famer join the ranks of Bellator?
But there you have it… Royce Gracie is now a brand ambassador for Bellator.
“I have known Scott for a long time and have always respected him as not only a promoter but as a martial artist who has always treated fighters with respect and truly understands their value,” Gracie said. “Bellator and Viacom want to give fans exciting fights and enable fighters to continue to grow and most importantly provide for their family, and it’s something I want to be a part of. UFC has done a great job over the past twenty years in building this sport and taking it globally and I’m glad to have been part of that, but Bellator is a growing organization I am honored to be a part of, and with the dedicated and talented people already associated with the company, we can further the growth of mixed marital arts as a sport worldwide.”
Gracie will begin working with Bellator immediately, including promotion for Bellator 131, which features a light heavyweight main event between two other former UFC stars, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.
Gracie will help promote the Bellator brand with seminars, autograph signings and promotional appearances. He will also be involved in their international expansion efforts, and Bellator and Gracie will release a co-branded merchandise line in 2015.
“To call Royce a legend would be an absolute understatement,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “Royce and the Gracie family are directly responsible for making this sport what it is today and we are incredibly fortunate to have him be a part of the Bellator family. Royce will serve in many different capacities for Bellator and I look forward to our fighters, staff and most importantly, our fans, in having the chance to interact with one of the most iconic figures in sports.”
As of now, Royce’s fighter profile is still on the UFC website. So is Stephan Bonnar’s though. Tito Ortiz’s is not. Bonnar had the UFC’s blessing when he went to Bellator. And it’s not like Royce is badmouthing the UFC here, so maybe no feathers will get ruffled. The Royce Gracie name has always been synonymous with the UFC so it will be interesting to see what their reaction is.