Johnny Eblen dislikes rumored PFL-Bellator merger: ‘I like more competition’
Johnny Eblen isn’t a fan of the rumors of a PFL-Bellator merger.
Recently, it’s been an open secret in the MMA world that Bellator is on the auction block, and earlier this month, rumors began circulating that PFL was in process of acquiring the rival promotion. Whether the rumors will ultimately prove true remains to be seen, but Bellator middleweight champion Johnny Eblen, who defended his title with a third round TKO win over Fabian Edwards at Bellator 299 this past weekend, says that the vibes were definitely a little off at this most recent event.
“I feel like the staff isn’t as hyped anymore,” Eblen said on The MMA Hour. “Not altogether, but it just kind of felt like when I went to check in, that it wasn’t the same this time. They’re still doing their thing and there’s a lot of uncertainty, so I can totally understand why, but other than that, other than the energy behind it, everything ran smoothly. Everything ran great. The Bellator staff is amazing. Everything ran how it should have ran.
“I guess it’s just like this big cloud of uncertainty is hanging over everybody’s head when it comes to Bellator and the future of Bellator and what’s going to happen. It’s going to change how people are feeling during events like this.”
As things stand now, Bellator has at least two more events planned out for the year — Bellator 300 and 301 — but after that, nothing has been announced, meaning that Eblen’s fight with Edwards on Saturday may have been his final one inside the Bellator cage.
And if that’s the case, that’s OK by the middleweight champ.
“I don’t know what the future holds, I just understand that I’m damn good at what I do, so I will always be employed, whether at Bellator, PFL, or the UFC, or freaking ONE,” Eblen said. “I can’t count ONE out. Quite possibly it could have been my last fight with Bellator, or not. They could have a few more events and drag this out a little bit longer. I’m not sure what the whole deal entails and what they’re going to do. Who knows? I’ll just be here waiting, ready to fight again, and take on whatever challenge they bring me next.”
With a deal not even confirmed, nearly anything could come next for Elben, be it in Bellator, PFL, or free agency. Whatever ends up happening though, Eblen doesn’t particularly like the big picture of everything should PFL actually end up acquiring Bellator.
“I think it’s bad, personally,” Eblen said. “It’s two major organizations, really, that are controlling a lot of fighters. I know PFL is meaning well though, and they’re trying to get guys paid more, so I can kind of see how it might be good, but you don’t know until it’s actually done. They could say that they’re going to pay fighters more and what-not but then absorb Bellator and do the same thing that the UFC is doing. Not to say that that’s what they’re going to do, but I like more competition than less competition.”
On top of the decrease in competition, Eblen in particular faces a different kind of problem: PFL does not currently have a middleweight division, meaning Eblen may not even have a home should the rumors prove true. The creates an entirely separate set of uncertainties for the middleweight champ, with some possible outcomes that he really doesn’t want.
“I think it’s a little odd and it’s kind of like, are you going to build [a division] for me?” Eblen said. “Are you not? We don’t know what’s going to happen. If they do and they get me to do a tournament structure, I’m not upset with that. I’m going to make a lot of money. And I’m also not upset with, ‘Hey, we’re not going to build a middleweight division,’ and they terminate my contract or sell it or whatever and I go to the UFC. I’m not upset with that either.
“It’s just weird. If they do buy it, they’re going to have to build a division around me or they’re going to have to do what they’re doing to Kayla Harrison, which is actually something I don’t want because I want to fight often. The worst possible thing that could happen to me is around my prime getting stuck fighting one time a year, against not the best guys in the world. Unless they can somehow get the best guys in the world by somehow paying them more. That’s what they did with Francis, but can you do that with some of the best ‘85ers in the world? I don’t know.”
And if they can’t? Eblen isn’t sure where that ultimately leaves him in his career, other than wishing things were different.
“If they get some new people to bring over, to sign, that are top-10 guys, that would make it interesting, but that’s a matter of if,” Eblen said. “That’s the only thing they could possibly do. Other than that, I’d just be kind of just fighting guys that aren’t the best in the world, and that’s where the problem lies, I think, with the whole PFL deal.
“You have one of the best talents in the middleweight division, but how are you going to make good fights with this guy? How do you make a good production with the best middleweight but you don’t have all the other middleweights? It’s just weird to me. I think fighting is such a weird sport. I wish it was more like boxing, where you could do cross-promotional and have the best guys fight each other, and boom, you know who the best guy in the world is.”