UFC vs. Bellator, Eddie Alvarez

PhotoCred: Bleacher Report

UFC vs. Bellator: How successful have champions been crossing over?

In MMA, UFC vs. Bellator will always be a fun topic to discuss as both promotions are widely regarded as the very best around. In the past, we here at MyMMANews have taken a look at their complete head to head history regarding same day events. Naturally, it then presented the question of, “How successful have the fighters been when crossing over?”

Well, determining exactly how successful every single fighter that has ever fought for both promotions would be quite a lengthy and strenuous challenge. Although we have plenty of time to do so during our current state of affairs in the world today, examining only those that have held titles gives us the clearest picture regardless. So that’s what we did instead.

In the entire championship histories of the UFC and Bellator, across eight divisions, 21 total past titleholders have crossed over and had varying degrees of success. Ultimately, only two have wound up finding themselves able to obtain gold in each promotion … so far. Interestingly enough, only 10.5 of them remain active and currently competing for either UFC or Bellator.

Don’t worry, that .5 will be explained when we get to it.

 

Heavyweight – 207-265lbs

Starting things off with the largest division in the sport, only three former champions have jumped between brands. The most recent being Frank Mir who went from the UFC to Bellator in early 2018. Along with his fellow UFC champion, Ricco Rodriguez, who ended up doing the same later in his career, these two aren’t the best examples of crossover champions finding success.

As for Rodriguez specifically, he only had one fight for Bellator which saw him finished by strikes in the first round against Seth Petruzelli.

A better example is the lone Bellator champion of the division to fight for both UFC and Bellator. That man being Russia’s Alexander Volkov.

Since joining the UFC, Volkov has been nearly perfect during his run and looked arguably better than ever as his lone loss saw him on the wrong end of a classic Derrick Lewis hail mary knockout. Aside from that, “Drago” has dispatched of notable veterans such as Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson before taking out former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum.

Bellator champions:

Alexander Volkov 

  • 6-3 in Bellator, 2012-2015 (Wins: 3 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 0 title defenses
  • 5-1 in UFC, 2016 – present (Wins: 2 KO/TKOs)

UFC champions:

Frank Mir

  • 16-11 in UFC, 2001 – 2018 (Wins: 8 submissions, 5 KO/TKOs)
  • 0 title defenses
  • Won an interim title
  • 1-2 in Bellator, 2018 – present

Ricco Rodriguez

  • 5-2 in UFC, 2001 – 2003 (Wins: 5 TKOs)
  • 0 title defenses
  • 0-1 in Bellator, 2011

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: The Athletic

Light heavyweight – 205lbs

The light heavyweight division is an interesting one when it comes to this examination as it has seen the most activity from fighters jumping back and forth. However, it’s been entirely one-sided seeing only former UFC champions going to Bellator and never the other way around. Instead, we’ve seen some top UFC contenders move on and find even better success.

As we just looked at heavyweight, Ryan Bader currently holds both the 205-pound and heavyweight crowns in Bellator but his career started as a UFC light heavyweight. Therefore he falls into that category. And despite never reaching the peak of the mountain in the UFC, Bader was still extremely successful over there and his great Bellator success has arguably made him the most successful overall in this crossover category. His “rival”, Phil Davis, has also been able to put together a quality career between both premier promotions.

Bellator champions:

Ryan Bader

  • 15-5 in UFC, 2008 – 2017 (Wins: 5 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • Won The Ultimate Fighter season 8
  • 5-0 [1 NC] in Bellator, 2017 – present (Wins: 3 KO/TKOs)
  • 1 title defense
  • Won Bellator heavyweight title (in Grand Prix tournament) (0 defenses)

Phil Davis

  • 9-3 [1 NC] in UFC, 2010 – 2015 (Wins: 3 submissions)
  • 8-2 in Bellator, 2015 – present (Wins: 4 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 0 title defenses

UFC champions:

Tito Ortiz

  • 15-11-1 in UFC, 1997 – 2012 (Wins: 8 KO/TKOs, 2 submissions)
  • 5 UFC title defenses
  • 3-1 in Bellator, 2014 – 2017 (Wins: 2 submissions)

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

  • 8-5 in UFC, 2007 – 2013, 2015 (Wins: 3 KO/TKOs)
  • 1 title defense
  • 5-3 in Bellator, 2013 – present (3 KO/TKOs)

Lyoto Machida

  • 16-8 in UFC, 2007 – 2018 (7 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 1 title defense
  • 2-1 in Bellator, 2018 – present (1 TKO)

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: Bleacher Report

Middleweight – 185lbs

Throughout each promotion’s history, there have been a few crossovers that fans were much more interested in than others. Perhaps the biggest of them all was the dominant Bellator champion in Hector Lombard.

The Cuban was a staggering 31-2-1 upon his arrival into the UFC having had only suffered defeat against Gegard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono. Every MMA fan was salivating at the idea of a seemingly eventual matchup between Lombard and reigning UFC king Anderson Silva. Unfortunately, Lombard would go on to be one of the biggest busts in MMA history and have his hype derailed immediately.

Suffering a split decision loss to Tim Boetsch in his UFC debut, Lombard arguably should have gotten the nod in the fight. It just wasn’t at all the type of performance we expected from the former Bellator titan. From there, he would win one fight at middleweight in the UFC before dropping to welterweight. Thus eventually leading to his six-fight skid that spelled the end of his tenure with the promotion.

Bellator champions:

Hector Lombard

  • 8-0 in Bellator, 2009 – 2012 (Wins: 7 KO/TKOs)
  • 1 title defense
  • 3-8 [1 NC] in UFC, 2012 – 2018 (Wins: 2 KOs)

Gegard Mousasi

  • 9-3 in UFC, 2013 – 2017 (Wins: 5 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 4-1 in Bellator, 2017 – present (Wins: 2 TKOs)
  • 1 title defense

UFC champions:

Dave Menne

  • 2-4 in UFC, 2000, 2001 – 2002, 2006
  • 0 title defenses
  • 1-1 in Bellator, 2009 (Win: submission)

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: VegasOdds

Welterweight – 170lbs

As mentioned with Lombard, he’s among the big three of Bellator legends and champions that fans were always dying to see in the UFC. And as we trickle down each division from here to lightweight, we’ll discuss each of those three.

Ben Askren’s UFC arrival was long-awaited and long overdue by the time that he finally arrived in 2019. The “Funky” dominant wrestler had beaten everyone that stood in his way. Those of which primarily came in Bellator and ONE Championship. Unfortunately for him, his dominance didn’t quite translate to the Octagon.

However, the case is there to be made that Askren came into the promotion far too late to really realize his dream of proving he’s the best welterweight on the planet. After his only two losses which came back to back by knockout and submission, Askren hung up the gloves.

The 35-year old wrestling sensation noted hip issues as a part of his reason for retiring as well as just not being able to get the job done as he had hoped to. If he entered into the UFC right when he left Bellator in 2013, maybe things could have been dramatically different.

When it comes to the other champions in this division, Lyman Good has alternated great wins over his losses in the UFC while Rory MacDonald left a bit to be desired despite becoming champion in Bellator.

Bellator champions

Lyman Good

  • 8-3 in Bellator, 2009 – 2013 (Wins: 4 KO/TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 0 title defenses
  • 3-2 in UFC, 2015 – present (Wins: 3 KO/TKOs)

Ben Askren

  • 9-0 in Bellator, 2010 – 2013 (Wins: 2 TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 4 title defenses
  • 1-2 in UFC, 2019 (Win: submission)

Rory MacDonald

  • 9-4 in UFC, 2010 – 2016 (Wins: 3 TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 3-2-1 in Bellator, 2017 – 2019 (Wins: 1 submission)
  • 1 title defense

UFC champions:

None

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: Los Angeles Times

Lightweight – 155lbs

While Benson Henderson has sniffed the possibility of being the only man to obtain titles in the WEC, UFC, and Bellator, he’s come up short on his two shots in his current promotion to this point. Currently riding a strong four-fight winning streak, he’s in a prime position to get a third and potentially historic crack at the title.

When it comes to UFC vs. Bellator though, here comes our first of the only two fighters who have been able to earn that label of “champion” in each. That being “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez.

Although Alvarez wound up becoming a UFC champion, many still don’t seem to believe his UFC run went as well as it could or should have. But even in that case, he did infinitely better than his fellow big three of Bellator champions in Askren and Lombard.

If anything at lightweight was shocking, it was the big dropoff that Will Brooks saw when he made his transition from UFC to Bellator.

Bellator champions:

Will Brooks

  • 8-1 in Bellator, 2013 – 2015 (Wins: 2 TKOs)
  • 2 title defenses
  • Won an interim title
  • 1-3 in UFC, 2016 – 2017

UFC champions:

Benson Henderson

  • 11-3 in UFC, 2011 – 2015 (Wins: 2 submissions)
  • 3 title defenses
  • 5-3 in Bellator, 2016 – present (Wins: 1 submission, 1 TKO)

Champions in both:

Eddie Alvarez

  • 9-1 in Bellator, 2009 – 2013 (Wins: 4 submissions, 2 TKOs)
  • 1 Bellator title defense
  • 4-3 [1 NC] in UFC, 2014 – 2018 (Wins: 2 KO/TKOs)
  • 0 UFC title defenses

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: Bellator MMA / MMA Junkie

Featherweight – 145lbs

Each promotion’s featherweight divisions have been pretty prestigious when it comes to those holding their belts. Which is an incredible contrast to the women’s 145-pound class which we’ll get to …

In the UFC, all of the champions have only been the division’s all-time best. With the exception of the current champion Alex Volkanovski who could very well work his way into that mix as well.

Meanwhile over in Bellator, their crop of champions has been homegrown staples. Well, except for the inaugural champion in Joe Soto who left the promotion after suffering his only loss under their banner.

Soto performed well during his time as a champion for Bellator and even got an extremely rare opportunity that saw him challenge for the UFC title in his Octagon debut. This coming at bantamweight.

Of course, that wasn’t the original plan for Soto to be in that spot. But when Renan Barao was pulled from his fight on just a day’s notice, Soto stepped in to save the day against TJ Dillashaw.

He would lose his first three bouts in the UFC before going on a winning streak of that same number. Soto would be finished in devastating fashions by Brett Johns and Iuri Alcantara to close out his tenure.

Bellator champions:

Joe Soto

  • 4-1 in Bellator, 2009 – 2010 (Wins: 2 TKOs, 1 submission)
  • 0 title defenses
  • 3-5 in UFC, 2014 – 2018 (Wins: 2 submissions)

UFC champions:

None

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: MMA Mania / MMA Junkie

Women’s featherweight

Cris Cyborg is the second of the lone two fighters to have held both UFC and Bellator titles to this point. And that shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Cyborg is undeniably the greatest female featherweight of all time and still argued as one of the greatest of all time regardless of division.

In the UFC, she would only taste defeat at the hands of a fellow legend in Amanda Nunes who was running rampant on the 135-pound class. Cyborg rebounded with a good win against former Invicta FC champion Felicia Spencer before jumping ship and taking Julia Budd’s Bellator crown in her first bout with the organization.

When comparing men’s and women’s featherweight as well as Alvarez to Cyborg, the competition comparison can always be made. But talent is talent and they’ve all taken long roads to get to where they did.

Champions in both:

Cris “Cyborg” Justino

  • 6-1 in UFC, 2016 – 2019 (Wins: 4 TKOs)
  • 2 title defenses
  • 1-0 in Bellator, 2020 – present (Win: TKO)
  • 0 title defenses

 

UFC vs. Bellator
PhotoCred: BloodyElbow

Bantamweight – 135lbs

Here is where we’ll talk about that .5 that was mentioned off the top!

In 2019, Bellator and RIZIN FF really heated up their collaborative efforts in cross-promoting fights and exchanging fighters. Therefore resulting in plenty of fun shakeups across the MMA landscape. The most notable of which saw RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi score two wins over Darrion Caldwell. The second of which earned him the Bellator title.

As Horiguchi is technically a RIZIN fighter, he will surely still be allowed to compete in Bellator as part of their partnership – but that doesn’t make him a current roster member. In fact, for all we know he could be one and done after vacating both his RIZIN and Bellator titles due to tearing his ACL. Either way, he remains one of their very best fighters in the world today.

On the opposite side of things, there’s a rather underappreciated Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky who fought at bantamweight due to Bellator’s lack of a featherweight division. Upon leaving in 2012, he would make the drop and never look back.

In the UFC, Makovsky only lost to the very best the division had to offer in the likes of Jussier “Formiga” da Silva and multi-time title challengers in John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez. All of which were via unanimous decisions. In his final fight in the UFC, which put him on a losing streak of three, Makovsky lost a split decision to Dustin Ortiz.

Since then, he’s tried his hand in the ACB as well as Brave CF

Bellator champions:

Zach Makovsky

  • 6-2 in Bellator, 2010 – 2012 (Wins: 2 submissions, 1 TKO)
  • 0 title defenses
  • 3-4 in UFC, 2013 – 2016

Kyoji Horiguchi

  • 7-1 in UFC, 2013 – 2016 (Wins: 2 TKOs)
  • 1-0 in Bellator, 2019
  • 0 title defenses

UFC champions:

None

 

In totality, 5 out of 8 champions going from the UFC to Bellator have secured records above .500 in their new fighting homes. UFC fighters overall, which then includes the likes of Horiguchi, Mousasi, MacDonald, Bader, and Davis then make it 10 out of 13.

To contrast that with Bellator to UFC, 3 out of 8 champions have managed to come out with more wins than losses.

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