ATLANTA – When you're as big and influential as the UFC, simple desire often is the only thing needed to get what you want.
So, take note Bellator fans; the UFC clearly wants two of its rival organization's biggest stars: ex-lightweight champ Eddie Alavarez (23-3 MMA, 7-1 BFC) and current middleweight titleholder Hector Lombard (31-2-1 MMA, 8-0 BFC).
UFC president Dana White suggested the UFC soon will make a play to sign both Bellator veterans.
Both fighters have been with Bellator since its inception in 2009. But as their contracts wind down and Alvarez and Lombard have the option to flirt with other suitors, the lure of the UFC is going to be strong.
Alvarez, who lost his title to Michael Chandler in November, upped his value on Friday by avenging an earlier defeat and making quick work of submission specialist Shinya Aoki in Bellator 66's headliner. After the fight, Alvarez said Bellator CEO and Chairman Bjorn Rebney needed to "show me the money" in a new contract.
The Bellator boss told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that Alvarez is "an absolute class act" who's been "a pleasuring work with." So will Rebney, in fact, show him the money?
"I don't think he's left me with a lot of choice, do you?" Rebney said.
But he's going to have competition. In the UFC's quest to assemble the world's top talent, White said the addition of Alvarez to his company's stacked 155-pound weight class is an obvious goal. While the loss to Chandler dinged his ranking, Alvarez should be comfortably back in the top 10 with the win over Aoki, who was widely regarded as a top-five lightweight at the time of their rematch this weekend.
"I think Eddie Alvarez is a great fighter," White said. "You know us, man. We're always looking to get the best fighters in the world in the UFC, and he's one of them."
The same goes for Lombard, a still-reigning Bellator champ who's 24-0-1 over his past 25 fights. The UFC nearly brought him into the fold in 2007, but visa issues halted the possible debut at UFC 78, and Lombard later signed with Bellator, where he won a season-one tournament, has made a title defense, and also won four non-title fights since winning the belt.
"I like him," White said of the Florida-based Cuban-Australian.
Is there truth to a Sherdog report that a UFC deal has been offered and that officials are simply awaiting word on whether Bellator will enact its right to match it?
"I like him a lot," White smirked. "So we'll see what happens."
While Bellator would lose some of its biggest star power with the departure of either fighter, it could be a financially prudent move for them. Bellator's business model doesn't allow it to truly capitalize on big-name talent. Instead, the tournament format and newly discovered (read: inexpensive) regional and international talent are the star attractions. Additionally, Bellator has struggled to find quality competition for the notables, and with the organization's move from the little-watched MTV2 to the bigger Spike TV delayed until 2013, most of their plans are geared toward the future, not the present.
And currently, spending lavishly on a few fighters – especially when trying to match the UFC's offers – may be a game not worth playing for Bellator.