With the first event of Bellator Season Eleven going head to head against UFC Fight Night 50 on September 5, a strong card is crucial — and Bobby Lashley’s debut for the promotion could prove to be key.
As part of the co-promotion between Bellator and Spike’s other combat sports brand, Impact Wrestling, the last few months have seen Lashley return to the fore in both mixed martial arts and pro wrestling. Despite having fought in promotions like WWE and Strikeforce in the past, the past few years have been rather quieter for Lashley; that is, until he returned to Impact Wrestling in 2014 and soon won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
That pro wrestling title adds significant heft to his Bellator fight against Josh Burns. Much has been made of the relationship between Bellator and Impact Wrestling, and all signs would point to Lashley still holding the belt when Bellator 123 rolls round in just under two weeks — after all, having Lashley drop the title just before his MMA fight certainly would seem to be at odds with the very reason for him appearing as a champion on weekly television.
Instead, we’re faced with a situation where the reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion heads into a fight where he could well be upset by Burns. It’s a situation that could well result in major headaches for Bellator and Impact Wrestling, but one that certainly adds a further degree of interest for fans. Even without a title on the line, you would have to think that Lashley’s wrestling strap would soon find its way into someone else’s hands if he comes up short against Burns.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen that a wrestler having a history in mixed martial arts can be used to great effect in ‘legitimizing’ them in a pro wrestling contest — the way that Brock Lesnar is being used in WWE at present wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful if his UFC run never happened. Having said that, there are obvious risks when you feature an athlete concurrently in a promotion with pre-determined outcomes alongside one with athletic contests.
Lashley will undoubtedly go into Bellator 123 as the favorite to win — but there is still the prospect that Burns might give him a real shock on the night. Bellator fans, and Impact Wrestling fans, will certainly be watching Lashley vs. Burns intently when Bellator 123 takes place on September 5.