PHOENIX, AZ -- When Bellator inked a long term developmental deal with 2011 NCAA wrestling champion Bubba Jenkins, promotion officials heralded the signing as a play to get the "world's No. 1 MMA prospect."
Bellator's plan, to slowly build Jenkins into a fighter capable of winning one of its signature tournaments, started out well enough. However it took a major hit on Friday night at Bellator 100, when Jenkins, a 17-to-1 favorite, suffered a brutal sustained beating at the hands of unheralded local lightweight LaRue Burley.
"It was shocking. It was as much of a shock to me as I'm sure it was a shock to anyone," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAFighting.com.
"Guys have trouble with gas tanks. You see that all the time, guys get gassed. But he looked beyond gassed. He looked at though almost like something had happen physiologically that just stopped him in his tracks. When he went to the corner at the end of the first and then at the end of the second, he was just, there was nothing there."
Jenkins lost his previously undefeated record when referee Al Guinee mercifully stepped in midway through the bout's final frame. Yet from the latter moments of the first round onward, Jenkins appeared beyond lethargic, and Burley capitalized, unloading a relentless salvo of strikes on the wrestler.
The sheer lopsided nature of the match stunned many observers, including Rebney, who couldn't say for sure whether the manner in which everything played out would affect Jenkins' aspirations of competing in professional MMA in the future.
"You don't know," Rebney admitted. "I mean, look, this is a very tough business. You take a drubbing and lose by 45 in college basketball, you come back the next week, you have everybody practice and you play the next one. In this game, you lose a fight in that kind of fashion, where it's that one-sided, it's that dramatic a loss, some guys it can have a real detrimental emotional impact to them moving forward.
"Bubba Jenkins is a pretty high-level competitor. He's taken big losses. He's won at a major level, so I would assume, based on the level he's competed at and the length of time he's been at that level, that he's probably pretty well positioned to take a devastating loss and be able to compartmentalize it and figure out how to turn it into something."
Rebney had yet to speak to Jenkins in the immediate aftermath of Bellator's 100th event. The 25-year-old was transferred to a local hospital following his loss.
Yet regardless of whether or not an injury played a part in Jenkins' poor performance, Rebney plans to take things slow regarding Jenkins' next move.
"I don't really know how to explain it, but man, it was just a shocking [fight]. Six months ago, he's a top prospect in the world in MMA. Blows me away, but we'll see," Rebney said.
"We have a long, long, long term deal with him. So we've got to try to stop the machine right now and get some questions answered before anything's planned moving forward. There's no fights on the docket for Bubba Jenkins right now. Right now it's about refocusing and figuring out what's going on."