ST. LOUIS – On a night when former UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione made his Bellator debut, and former UFC champion Benson Henderson was cageside at the Scottrade Center to see him do it, the idea of free agency loomed in the air at Bellator 157: Dynamite 2.
And as of last weekend, there's one notable free agent that could ignite a little bidding war.
Rory MacDonald, who trains at the Tristar Gym in Montreal, fought out his contract in Ottawa against Stephen Thompson. Though he lost to "Wonderboy" it what was thought to be a No. 1 contender's bout, MacDonald is only 26 years old and has gone 9-4 in the Octagon. Two of his losses — against Carlos Condit in 2010 and against current welterweight champion Robby Lawler in 2015 — he found himself winning heading into the final round.
It doesn't hurt that he's a key to the Canadian market.
When asked if Bellator would make a play for MacDonald, Bellator President Scott Coker said there would obviously be interest.
"It really comes down to, we're Bellator, and we're going to go after all free agents," Coker told MMA Fighting after the post-fight press conference. "When [MacDonald's] contract is up, and I think he might have some contingencies in the negotiation period, and we're not going to breach any contracts. But when they are ready to talk, we're here and Rory's somebody we'd definitely be interested in when he's free."
In the Coker-era of Bellator, the promotion has snagged a couple of key free agents, including Mitrione, Phil Davis and Henderson. It also spoke to bantamweight Aljamain Sterling during his free agency period before "The Funk Master" re-upped with the UFC.
Asked if MacDonald losing his last fight heading into free agency would affect anything, Coker shook his head.
"One fight doesn't paint the whole picture," he said.