(Kevin Marshall's opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.)
It's another busy weekend for MMA. The UFC has booked Gray Maynard and Clay Guida in a war that for promotional reasons would be much, much better off if it had been moved to one of the numerous injury-riddled pay-per-view cards they have coming up. That would have satiated those disappointed fans that paid money and received a replacement main event with nothing at stake, whereas left as the main event on cable it won't move the needle very much.
But that's not what I want to talk about today.
There's another card tonight that features the return to the spotlight of a fighter who once competed in a main event on broadcast television, a claim that can be made by only a handful of fighters. Yet in the last year he has found himself in a jail cell, delivering newspapers to make ends meet, and tearfully begging for a job with a promotion
He's Brett Rogers, and he comes with a lot of baggage.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney thinks he deserves a shot, even when others may think otherwise due to the nature of his transgressions (he was arrested for domestic violence and eventually convicted of third degree felony assault). Tonight he receives a shot at professional (if not personal) redemption when he faces Kevin Asplund at Bellator 71, which airs live online at Spike.com
at 6:30 E/ 3:30P.
The signing of Brett Rogers came on the heels of the announcement of another controversial signing, Paul "Semtex" Daley, who will join the promotion's burgeoning Welterweight division. Daley was fired by the UFC and declared persona non grata after he approached Josh Koscheck after the conclusion of their May 2010 bout and struck him. Daley also has a history of issues making weight, which could be trouble if he's placed in the mix at 170.
Bellator, however, is counting on Daley making good with weight (which he did in his last two bouts) and bringing his explosive striking style that has given him a dedicated following that's been forgiving of his question marks. One has to wonder, though, if he'll be able to adapt and more importantly keep his cool should he encounter the promotion's current Welterweight champion, grappler Ben Askren. If he hasn't made the necessary emotional and technical adjustments, a fight with Askren could make his fight with Koscheck look like Don Frye versus Yoshihiro Takayama.
Are Daley and Rogers worth the trouble? The answer's complicated, but what it comes down to is that it can't hurt, since neither fighter is necessarily being brought in for their name value.
The folly of Strikeforce, and why it's failing, is that it found itself chasing a dragon. It tried to give itself more visibility by signing big name stars at the expense of building divisions and a brand. As a result, it became a promotion not enough people watched while accumulating high priced salaries for names that didn't move their numbers enough.
Given their respective issues, it's tough to argue that Rogers and Daley wouldn't be given this opportunity in Bellator had they not established names for themselves elsewhere. However, given Bellator's promotional model and track record, they're not simply signing these fighters for their names. Bellator has made a conscious effort to build itself as a promotion first and have its divisions and tournaments create stars for them (eg. Ben Askren and Eddie Alvarez), rather than working backwards and acquiring stars in the hope they will make their promotion successful.
In the case of Paul Daley, he brings an aggressive stand-up style that can strengthen the competitive Welterweight division and give their champion, Ben Askren, a true test. In the case of Brett Rogers, it's clear that he was signed because in the past he'd shown something, and its CEO found sympathy and is simply giving him an opportunity.
Bellator may be courting controversy with these signings, but that can be the cost of doing business in giving two former contenders an opportunity. The pressure is on Rogers and Daley to prove to themselves, and the fans, that they can handle being at this level.Image: Esther Lin/ Forza LLC/ Getty Images