Logan Storley Signing With Bellator Signals Shift In Industry

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For the large majority of the past quarter century mixed martial arts has been in existence the UFC has been the clear standing industry leader. And while not much has changed in that regard in 2017, there have definitely been signs that signal a change is underway.

Logan Storley inking a deal with Bellator is one of those indicators.

While a highly touted prospect signing with one of the top promotions in the sport would rarely be seen as a seismic shift, the details of how Storley’s deal unfolded bear further investigation. The former six-time South Dakota high school state wrestling champion turned four-time All-American University of Minnesota standout turned undefeated MMA phenom didn’t simply land in Bellator’s lap with a contract to follow thereafter. Not in the slightest.

Instead, the former Brock Lesnar protege was a recognized talent burning down the regional scene whose talents quickly drew the attention of both the UFC and Bellator. Furthermore, Storley’s association with Combat Club and training with the likes of established veterans Robbie Lawler, Michael Chandler and Michael Johnson, served to quicken the sense of what the 24-year-old fighter was capable of.

Storley’s wrestling pedigree was well documented, and the buzz surrounding his potential carried a high enough volume to command the two largest audiences in the sport. Yet, when news of Storley’s signing with Bellator broke on FloCombat this past weekend, and the insight offered by the undefeated welterweight painted a picture more complex than simply choosing an A or B option.

Although Storley was quick to point out how much he appreciated the interest shown by the UFC, it was Bellator’s open sponsorships and past track record for promoting former college wrestlers which appealed to him the most. UFC’s Reebok deal has drawn tremendous scorn from the fighting community since its inception in 2013, where a tier system was created that limited the amount of money a fighter could collect in sponsorships due to the athletic apparel being the only wearable option on fight night and in the week leading up to the event.

With Storley sharing the same management as newly minted Bellator champion Ryan Bader and recently felled titleholder Michael Chandler, a clear pathway to earning potential under the Los Angeles-based promotion’s banner was laid out. In the interview with FloCombat Storley was quick to point out how Reebok’s payout for fights 1-5 would only be $2,500, which was an amount he’d already healthily surpassed during his first five fights as a professional.

While the subject of money often takes a back seat to the quest for glory in the narrative around fighting, seeing a competitor in the very early stages of their career make a clear distinction between the two premier organizations in the sport in that regard is a telling indicator of perspective. Simply put: Storley believes fighting for Bellator will allow him to make substantially more sponsorship dollars than if he’d chosen to sign with the UFC. And he’s right in believing this.
Storley’s decision to sign with Bellator also points to something much bigger taking place on the larger landscape of the sport as a whole.

Five years back it would have been unheard of for a fighter to openly seek out a Bellator contract rather than sign with the UFC. As a matter of fact, such was the environment several notable fighters and champions like Eddie Alvarez fought to get out of Bellator to compete inside the Octagon. The motivations were primarily financial, but there was also a perceived prestige of competing under the UFC banner.

While there is no doubting the UFC’s place as industry leader is still intact, the dynamic as a whole is shifting. With Bellator making aggressive moves to pick up free agents on the market--a stance President Scott Coker doubled down on this past weekend in an interview with FloCombat--the ground is going to continue to close.

With prospects like Storley choosing a route less traveled by, one has to question just how long that path will remain low traffic in the years to come.

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