With the looming Bellator PPV main evented by Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson versus Tito Ortiz, and Bellator’s newfound deep pockets to sign established talent, there are several fighters who could be lured from retirement. Below we look at the most plausible returns to MMA in the next 18 months or so.
Fedor Emilianenko: Heading to the UFC to face the likes of Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos is not that appealing, but how about taking the same money to face someone like Tito Ortiz on a future PPV? Even ‘Rampage’ is not a scary proposition for Fedor, who is still 36 years old and ended his career on a 3 fight winning streak. Interest is fading and the window is closing altogether, but Ortiz vs Fedor or ‘Rampage’ vs Fedor is still a main event that could appeal to Bellator.
Forrest Griffin: Griffin is still just 34 years old, and there are stories that his retirement was egged on by UFC President Dana White. Still just 34 years old, should the competition bug hit Griffin again, the likes of Ortiz and ‘Rampage’ as competition is certainly much more palatable than fighting Jon Jones again.
BJ Penn: He has retired and un-retired seemingly countless times, and his days as a top performer in the UFC are behind him. The ‘Prodigy’ still remains one of the most well known MMA athletes around, and at 155 or 170 lbs Penn may be available. The possibilities of seeing Eddie Alvarez or Michael Chandler taking on Penn are fascinating. It is not in the card likely, but a 170 lb bout with titlist Ben Askren would also be intriguing, as Askren would certainly force BJ to use Jiu Jitsu in a fight, and that is where he earned the nickname the ‘Prodigy’.
Brock Lesnar: Lesnar himself has talked about getting the bug to compete again. Lesnar is still just 36 again, and likely would return to the UFC. It is unlikely that the UFC and WWE would allow Lesnar to work with Bellator and rivals TnT Wrestling, but the possibility of Fedor vs Lesnar, though a few years too late, is still an intriguing match. Lesnar to the UFC will be heard from time to time.
Gina Carano: Carano would obviously not go to Bellator, and it will be an open question if she can compete at 135 lbs after years away from the sport, but Carano versus Ronda Rousey would be huge for the UFC. Rousey has talked about possibly having a couple of years left in the sport, which in her current status means 2-3 more fights maximum. ‘Cyborg’ and Carano would be quite a send off for the woman who launched women’s MMA to the big time, and Carano would be the perfect foil with star power for a farewell match.