With apologies to the WSOF, who in recent months have signed Shawn Jordan and Jared Rosholt, Bellator MMA is the only viable destination for heavyweight free agent Shane Carwin.
News of Carwin’s return made the rounds last week, and it was widely expected that the former UFC interim heavyweight champion would be returning to the company that made him a household name in MMA circles. Instead, it appears a deal couldn’t be reached (read: the money wasn’t there), and in what seems to be a more or less amicable split, it was announced that Carwin’s comeback would take place elsewhere.
Now, he’s the biggest (no pun intended) name on the free agent market. The man who pushed Brock Lesnar to the limit at their UFC 116 title bout is looking to repeat Lesnar’s winning ways (and hopefully not his drug test troubles) when coming back to the sport — and at heavyweight, there aren’t many options.
ONE FC? Not deep enough in that weight class for the likes of Carwin, who even after years away from the sport would likely walk through most of the competition found there. The WSOF? Oh, there are some interesting bouts to be had, especially against Rosholt, Jordan, champion Blagoy Ivanov, or even fellow ex-UFC fighter Josh Copeland, but all of those seem like fights Carwin should win. In contrast, Bellator has Cheick Kongo and Matt Mitrione, and those two fights alone are more enticing than anything on a competitor’s roster, save the UFC itself.
That’s not the only factor here. Bellator has shown that, if nothing else, it knows how to entertain. The walkout videos, the freakshow fights, the dynamite cards. It can be a double-edged sword at times, but for Carwin, it just feels like a better fit. A couple of fights in, and he’s fighting for a belt on national TV with a pretty hefty audience – more so, frankly, than the other options combined, at least in North America.
Then there’s the possibility of cross-promotional fights with Rizin FF, something Bellator has wisely got on board with. While there aren’t a massive amount of heavyweights awaiting Carwin in Rizin, there’s the golden ticket known as Fedor Emelienenko, who is rumoured to have been offered a cool two million to appear at the company’s New Year’s Eve show. While the rumored opponent at this point is Wanderlei Silva, nothing is set in stone — and this year or next, a hefty payday for fighting The Last Emperor could be quite enticing.
Realistically, it’s the perfect situation for Carwin, who should easily draw similar numbers to Kongo on Spike TV. He may not have much time left this late in his career, but a couple of big fights with widespread exposure is exactly how a top caliber fighter should go out — as long as they keep him away from complete freakshow territory.