Leonard Garcia will try to kickstart his MMA career with Legacy Fighting Championship, so the reported business about him and Bellator MMA is pretty much moot.
But as far as Bellator is concerned, it may be a little more than water under the bridge.
Garcia (15-11-1) was released by the UFC after a fifth straight loss this past month at UFC 159. He told MMAFighting.com he was fielding offers from World Series of Fighting and Bellator, and was planning on changing training homes from Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA to Team Alpha Male. But on Friday, he signed a three-fight deal with Legacy FC and will debut for the Texas-based promotion on July 19 against Rey Trujillo.
Garcia told the site he was hesitant to hear Bellator’s offer in full because of his desire to earn his way back to the UFC, and that if he signed with Bellator that might not be possible – inferring the potential for a contract dispute similar to the one ongoing between Bellator and former champ Eddie Alvarez.
There’s just one problem, though. According to Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney, the promotion never reached out to Garcia and had no interest in doing so. In the wake of that, Rebney said Bellator has discovered that someone is contacting gyms and fighter managers claiming to represent the company and TV partner Spike TV.
“Leonard Garcia has never been approached by our company,” Rebney on Friday told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “We have never had any interest or expressed any interest in signing Leonard Garcia. But he claimed to have been approached by Bellator about signing. Now, I’ve got a lot of respect for anybody who steps inside the cage. I’ve got a lot of respect for anybody who’s got the guts to be a professional mixed martial artist. But with all due respect, we had no interest in signing him.”
Rebney said only he and matchmakers Sam Caplan and Zach Light ever would reach out to any fighter or fighter representative in a recruitment capacity. With Garcia, that was not the case.
The timing of the Garcia situation just so happened to intermingle with two similar instances, and Rebney saw an odd pattern.
“What we’ve heard over the last two to three days is that apparently there are some people out there calling gyms and calling managers claiming to be recruiters of talent for Spike and Bellator,” he said. “The reality of the situation is, I don’t know who’s motivating that or who’s paying people to make those calls, but I will say this: If it’s not me, and it’s not Sam Caplan or Zach Light, then you’re not being contacted by Bellator about the signing of a fighter.”
Rebney said Bellator was told by a “well-known” gym owner in the Southwest, as well as an East Coast-based fighter manager, that they had been contacted by someone claiming to represent Bellator.
When the person on the other end of the line gave a name other than Rebney, Caplan and Light, red flags went up.
As of now, Rebney isn’t speculating on the motivation of whoever might be behind the alleged phone calls, but wants fair warning to go out.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from, and I don’t know who’s causing that to happen or who’s behind that,” he said. “But they’re not real, and Leonard Garcia is an example of one.”
For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Leonard Garcia)
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