It’s been 14 months since Gegard Mousasi made the jump from the UFC to Bellator, and he hasn’t looked back.
Just two fights into his run with his new promotion, Mousasi claimed championship gold, winning the belt with a first-round knockout of Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 200 in May. It was vindication for the 52-fight veteran who left the UFC on a five-fight win streak last year, in part because of his inability to land a bout with then-UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
During a media call for Bellator 206 on Wednesday, Mousasi was asked if he expected other UFC fighters to join him in Bellator, and he took the opportunity to explain how he thought the two companies were headed in opposite directions.
“Bellator is growing, no doubt about it,” Mousasi said. “I think the last couple of years, I was fighting at Bellator 200, I got the opportunity to fight in the main event. Now fighting Rory (MacDonald) in a superfight for DAZN. I got to fight for the belt.
“These opportunities that I get now, I wouldn’t have gotten it if I was in the UFC. So I’m very thankful they have trust in me, so I just have to do my job and put on good fights and win.”
Pushed to elaborate on the differences between the philosophies of the UFC and Bellator, Mousasi kept it simple: the quality of some UFC cards just aren’t high enough.
“I feel the UFC is declining because they’re putting on bad cards, the main events are not that intriguing,” Mousasi said. “We have a lot of big names fighting now in Bellator. You have Quinton (Jackson) vs. Wanderlei (Silva), that’s a superfight on its own, obviously (Lyoto) Machida is now here. Ryan Bader. You have Matt Mitrione, you have so many big names.
“I think because of my long career, I’m now where I should be and I’m taking every chance I get to fight for the big fights.”
Mousasi’s upcoming middleweight title defense against welterweight champion Rory MacDonald on Sept. 29 is one of the big fights that he’s talking about, a meeting that features two men who have won and competed for world titles on multiple occasions. Having come from the UFC, Mousasi and MacDonald are uniquely qualified to talk about what it’s like to be top competitor in both promotions.
MacDonald currently sits atop Bellator’s 170-pound division, a roster that includes such luminaries as Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, Paul Daley, and Michael Page, and he echoed the sentiment of Mousasi that Bellator is doing a better job of handling its talent than the UFC.
“I think they’re competing very well,” MacDonald said when asked to compare the welterweight divisions in the UFC and Bellator. “I like what Bellator’s doing with the management of it better. I think we have a more exciting division especially with the way they’re doing tournaments. I just think they’re managing it better, their talent. They’re giving us better opportunities.
“Obviously, UFC has great talent, but the matchups and the way they’re managing it, I don’t find it very intriguing and I find the fans are feeling the same way about it.”
When talking about the best fighters outside of the UFC, Mousasi and MacDonald are typically front and center in that conversation. Mousasi never got to compete for a UFC title, but he was asked how he would fare against current UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
He answered that his only concern is being the best middleweight at Bellator 206.
“I’m not chasing that title,” Mousasi said. “I really don’t care about that. All I care is on the 29th I have to be the best middleweight, and then 30th of September somebody else can be the best middleweight. For me, the goal is to be the best on the 29th. It’s all about matchups.
“If I would fight Whittaker, I think the guy who has the good standup skills can defeat him, so I don’t care about being the best or not. On the 29th, I need to be the best.”