Last week, Bellator surprised many fans when they announced that they had signed UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar. Having retired in 2012, the 37-year-old seemed like a unlikely candidate to return to the sport; especially for a rival promotion such as Bellator.
Bonnar is best known for his classic bout against Forrest Griffin in the finals of the first series of The Ultimate Fighter. The fight, voted as the best of the year by readers of MMAWeekly.com and awarded ‘Shoot Match of the Year’ by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, is widely regarded as one of the landmark moments in UFC history — and one of the best MMA matches of all time.
Despite losing via a close unanimous decision, Bonnar’s tenacious performance led UFC president to award him a contract with the organization on the spot. The legend of the ‘American Psycho’ was written in the culmination of The Ultimate Fighter, but his connection with fans would continue to develop with the opportunities he was given afterwards.
Both Bonnar and Griffin would feature in a web series hosted on the Spike TV website, offering commentary on subsequent seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Bonnar was well received in this role up until he was let go by Spike TV following a suspension in 2009. Recently, Bonnar has received similar praise for his commentary role with Titan FC.
Now, Bonnar will return to the sport as a competitor to face Tito Ortiz, in a clash that many thought had to happen at some point. It’s true that both men are perhaps past their prime — but that’s not what this fight is about. This is a big-name spectacle that will undoubtedly create interest in whatever card it’s put on. Fans will turn out to see Bonnar vs. Ortiz.
However, it’s not just for his name or his in-ring talents that Bonnar is a good get for Bellator and Spike TV. While his announcing duties for Titan FC will continue alongside his work in Bellator, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him transition into some other role for the company alongside his fighting.
Whether it be analysis, commentary or some other on-screen presence, Bonnar is a recognisable face who could fit well into just about any niche he’s given. He could be a great boost to any aspect of coverage that he’s given a chance to work with.
With his last fight being nearly two years ago, we’ll have to wait until Bonnar’s first fight for Bellator to see what he can offer as a competitor. His match against Ortiz will draw regardless, and will likely set the tone for the remainder of Bonnar’s active career. Having said that, the ‘American Psycho’ is certain to prove to be a major boon for Bellator.