Last night at Bellator 24 we witnessed the current welterweight champion Hector Lombard (24-2-1) win via knock out in just 38 seconds over former NFL running back Whisper Goodman (16-9). Hector is an impressive fighter with only two defeats both coming by way of decision. A champion of his caliber should not be fighting a Whisper Goodman and it leads me to wonder if the best years of his career are being wasted.
Hector is 32 years old and as stated previously has only suffered two defeats. Those two losses came back in 2006 in Pride Fighting Championships against the likes of Akihiro Ghono (31-15-7) and Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1). Essentially we are looking at man who is the prime of his career and has rolled off twelve consecutive victories since the draw with Kyle Noke in 2007. Now is the time Hector should be facing top tier competition yet here we see him in a non-title fight (something that is becoming far to common in Bellator) against a man no one believed had a chance.
I will admit that I enjoy Bellator and what they bring to the table for mixed martial arts fans but one has to wonder if they are holding Hector back from greatness or protecting him from being exposed.
An organization will want to hold tight to it’s champion so one can not fault Bellator for their champion clause which forces Hector to “re-up” indefinitely as long as he is the champion even though he technically only has one fight remaining on his contract. However Bellator needs to give Hector some real competition as no champion should be forced to fight second tier talent.
His next fight ,which is scheduled to be a title defense, is against season 2 tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko on October 28. While Alexander will be a much better match-up for Hector, pitting striker versus striker, it is still not the competition Hector will need in order to cement his place amongst the MMA elite before the end of his career.
Many have asked me what should become of Hector and how Bellator should handle the situation. Lombard should be called up to the UFC where he was supposed to fight in 2007 at UFC 78 but could not due to visa problems. In order for this to happen Bjorn Rebney and Bellator would need to let go of their champion. That is not as easy as it sounds when you have a highly promotable fighter like Hector who seems to KO anyone in his path in a matter of seconds.
Bellator finds themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place when faced with the Lombard situation. They could release him and allow him to move into the larger organizations, say the UFC or even Strikeforce. This move would be the best for Hector and his career but it leaves Bellator with an empty title, one less highly explosive fighter to promote and forces them to admit they are nothing more than a feeder organization to the aforementioned promotions.
Do they do what is best for Hector or do they focus on what is best for their promotion? This assumes that holding onto Hector best for them. The argument can be made that having a champion with no real contenders and feeding him what have become easy victories is not good for either the fighter or the promotion. Does calling out heavyweight Josh Barnett after his win last night mean Lombard is bored with what Bellator has to offer? This is why I have no desire to run a mixed martial arts promotion.
Let’s say Hector was released and became a free agent to explore his options. The two best bets are obviously the UFC and Strikeforce but which one holds the key to his legacy?
Hector is a knock out artist but one that pushes forward throwing albeit heavy yet sloppy strikes. This style would probably play well in Strikeforce and could make for some interesting match-ups. You have guys like Tim Kennedy, Mayhem Miller and Jacare Souza waiting to test his grappling ability and show off that black belt in judo while swinging for the fences.
Then we have the UFC where he could likely compete in one of two weight classes. While he fights at 185 and would bring some excitement to that division (imagine Hector versus Vitor Belfort in a slugfest) there is always the shot to drop to 170. This drop would inject that division with the fresh talent that is desperately needed as current champion Georges St. Pierre seems to be forced to face the same men over and over again.
Only time will tell what will happen with Hector Lombard and Bellator. What do you think should happen with Lombard? Stay tuned to MMA Gospel as we keep you updated on the future of Lombard and until then, congratulations to Lombard on yet another victory inside the cage.