Today Bellator announced the signing of former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. Henderson was a free agent after his UFC contract expired and him moving to Bellator is yet another big deal in the wake of UFC's grasp on the industry starting to wane thanks to Viacom's hefty check book and moves by the UFC like the Reebok deal that made fighting in the UFC a lot less attractive to fighters. There is another free agent out there that has interest from many sides and that free agent also has our interest as well, that is Alistair Overeem.
Overeem's UFC career has been solid, if not average at 5-3 with big wins over Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir and Junior Dos Santos. But now he finds himself as a free agent and it seemingly comes down to taking a lesser offer from the UFC in hopes of getting a run at the UFC Heavyweight Championship, or to look for greener pastures.
The question on lots of fans' minds is this; will he end up in Bellator. My question is a bit different; will he kickbox again?
In a way it seems impossible, right? With all due respect to GLORY, the chances of them paying Overeem what he wants seems slim-to-none at this point and no other big kickboxing organization would really benefit from adding Overeem to their roster at his high price point. That is, if you are looking at things in a traditional, binary way of a promotion having only this or that, or just being MMA or just kickboxing. What if a promotion could offer both?
We've known about Bellator's Scott Coker looking to expand into kickboxing for almost a year now, but the wheels seem to be in motion starting at the April Oktagon event (although Bellator has yet to comment on this yet), with Joe Schilling confirming in his recent Reddit AMA that Bellator was going to venture into kickboxing. All of a sudden Bellator seems not only like a logical destination for a fighter like Alistair Overeem's MMA career, but for the final K-1 World Grand Prix Champion (at least under the FEG banner, I guess, are we counting Cro Cop's win?) to return to kickboxing and shake things up in heavyweight kickboxing.
A huge part of why heavyweight kickboxing has felt so hollow over the past few years has been not only the dissolution of K-1's legendary heavyweight division, but the retirement or fading away of the stars that made that division so great. Alistair Overeem was the man to win the last real K-1 World Grand Prix while K-1 still had its roster in tact. A big part of why the division hasn't felt as vibrant would have to be that for years the champion would continue fighting in tournaments and when a new champion was crowned there were no lingering doubts because the system was clear. The system was incredibly simple; the champion won a one-night, eight man tournament each year. Period. That's it.
GLORY has held tournaments since then, and K-1 held a World Grand Prix in 2012 that Mirko Cro Cop won, but all of these tournaments felt like they were missing something. In that period of time Rico Verhoeven has risen up to the very top of the food chain, but finding someone to challenge him has been a chore for GLORY. On top of that, some fans still don't accept him as the "real" champion for god know's what reason. I'd argue that a big part of that feeling is that the chain was broken and the champion didn't go on to fight in another tournament. There was no passing of the torch, so to speak.
If Bellator is truly going to have their own kickboxing promotion this year who better to help build that promotion around than Alistair Overeem, former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion? And yes, he could do that while still fighting in MMA for them as well. Overeem's star power is undeniable at this point and while promotional logistics would make a potential clash between Overeem and Verhoeven difficult, never say never.