Former UFC title challenger Nate Marquardt, cut by that promotion after failing to be medically cleared to fight Rick Story at UFC Live 4, has signed with The British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA).
Marquardt had talked to America's Bellator promotion and both their middle- and welterweight champions, Hector Lombard and Ben Askren, did a little bit of feuding with him via twitter and the blogs, but nothing came of those negotiations. Apparently because Marquardt wanted an immediate title shot, not unreasonable for a long-time top ten contender, and Bellator wanted to plug him into their tournament format.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney spoke to TapouT about the negotiations (transcribed by Fight Opinion):
"We have a model here that's pretty well entrenched and until they drag me out of my offices kicking and screaming, it's going to stay in place. You want to fight Hector Lombard? You're going to win three fights in a tournament, you're going to be on TV three times over a 90 day period, you're going to earn $100,000, and you're going to earn that right to fight Lombard. You want to fight Ben Askren? For a world title? You're going to go through the exact same dynamics. It doesn't matter how big you are or highly rated you are, whether you're #1, #2, #3, or #6 or #7 in the world in Nate's case, you're not going to come into the organization and fight for a world title. It just doesn't work that way."
With the second biggest American promotion eliminated, Marquardt turned his eyes toward Europe. Presumably Marquardt still hopes to return to the UFC, so the Bellator contract might have been an additional obstacle.
Liam Fisher at BAMMA stated in a press release, "As soon as we received word that the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission lifted Marquardt's suspension we jumped at the chance to sign him. He is a top ranked contender and an asset to any promotion. Words cannot express how excited we are that Marquardt is now fighting under the BAMMA banner."Marquardt had this to say about signing with Europe's leading MMA promotion, "Offers came in from several fight promotions, but we felt that BAMMA was definitely the best fit. They put on high-quality shows, stack their cards with top-level fighters, and sign those fighters to multi-fight deals. They are also the only fight organization in the UK that implements PED testing. To be honest, that is one of the main reasons that we chose BAMMA. I want to prove to my fans and to the world that I'm the real deal and that I belong on top."
Marquardt went on to say, "Now that my suspension has been lifted and I've found a home with a new fight promotion, I can move forward and turn my focus back to my fight career. This has been an extremely difficult time and I'm very thankful to those who stood by me. I'm looking forward to getting back to fighting and there are some guys out there that I would definitely like to get my hands on. I'm talking about the fighters that kicked me while I was down. BAMMA is known for signing top talent ...so I may just get my chance."
Other fighters recently signing with BAMMA include UFC veterans Frank Trigg and Efrain Escudero and Strikeforce veteran Joey Villasenor.