Wanderlei Silva likely will not compete for Bellator until the middle of next year, but there is already groundwork being laid for his return.
Bellator MMA president Scott Coker told Ariel Helwani on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour that two such opponents stand out as possible foes for Silva once he returns: Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz.
"With Wanderlei, he's on suspension until May of next year," Coker said. "Then we'll pick it up from there. I'm excited, because we've got some great fights ahead for him. Look at him and a potential Quinton Jackson rematch, him and Tito fighting again."
Silva, 39, is currently serving a lengthy suspension for evading a drug test handed down by the Nevada Athletic Commission. In February, the former PRIDE and UFC star had what was a lifetime ban bumped down to a three-year suspension, meaning he will be eligible to compete again in the United States in May 2017. Silva will be entering the ring for RIZIN in Japan later this year, though, and took part in a grappling match for RIZIN last month.
"The Axe Murderer" has history with both "Rampage" and Ortiz. Silva knocked out Jackson twice in PRIDE, but got knocked out by his rival most recently in the UFC in 2008. Ortiz beat Silva in Silva's lone UFC title shot at UFC 25 in 2000. Ortiz, a UFC Hall of Famer, went on to hold the UFC light heavyweight title for three years thereafter.
While there were rumblings that Silva might compete for Bellator before his suspension concluded, whether it be overseas or under a commission that would not honor the NAC's ruling, Coker clarified that it won't happen. Silva won't enter the Bellator cage until May 2017, he said.
"There's just a lot of really interesting fights for him," Coker said. "I'm excited to get him back to being on our roster."