Pens keep touching the dotted line at Bellator MMA as it was announced on Friday that the Viacom owned company has made another free agent signing. RFA featherweight champion and former UFC fighter Justin “The American Kid” Lawrence has signed with the Bellator.
In a press release Bellator president Scott Coker stated the goals for the organization in signing free agent fighters:
“Its been a big week for Bellator, with Gleristone Santos, Phil Davis and now Justin Lawrence joining the ranks. We remain committed to not just signing proven stars, but also recruiting top prospects from regional promotions, evidenced by our recent signing of RFA featherweight champion and top young up and coming fighter Justin Lawrence. I said it before and I will continue to say it, we will build them from ground up and hit it from the top down.”
What makes this particular signing stand out is that the UFC has made it a habit of signing fighters from the RFA and the company’s president, Ed Soares, has said publicly many times that the organization takes pride in being a feeder league to the UFC. There is no official partnership between the UFC and RFA but if anything it has seemed to be more like a handshake agreement. Many ex-UFC fighters have gone on to compete in the RFA to only get picked back up by the world’s biggest organization.
Earlier this week Bellator signed top ten light heavyweight Phil Davis and have made strong overtures to Gilbert Melendez and was even rumored to be willing to throw a mass amount of money at Brock Lesnar. Time will tell if the Phil Davis signing will pay off as his strong grappling style tends to rub many fans the wrong way. The signing of Lawrence could be a sign of Bellator going after younger fighters that the UFC may have had their eyes on and had hope to develop at their own pace.
Lawrence entered the UFC in 2012 after participating in season 15 of the Ultimate Fighter. On the show Lawrence was the first overall pick of coach Dominick Cruz. Though he did not win the season he was signed by the UFC and made his debut on the TUF 15 finale and picked up a win with a highlight-reel head kick knockout over John Cofer. Unfortunately Lawrence could not carry the momentum from that win with him into his next two bouts. He first suffered a TKO loss to Max Holloway and then a submission loss to Daniel Pineda. It was after the loss to Pineda that Lawrence was handed his walking papers by the UFC.
Six months after his release from the UFC, Lawrence made his debut for the RFA where he won three consecutive bouts and claiming the featherweight championship along the way. It also should be noted that Lawrene made his professional debut in Strikeforce, which Scott Coker use to run before it was bought out by the UFC. Lawrence is expected to make his debut for Bellator later this year.