April 5, 2017

UFC 210: Weidman Fight Could Be Gegard Mousasi’s UFC Swan Song

By Adam Martin

Gegard Mousasi has always had the potential to become a UFC champion. He’s as close as ever to finally reaching that peak, but it’s possible he’ll never get a chance to do so. That’s because Mousasi, who fights Chris Weidman in the co-main event of UFC 210, is an impending free agent and it’s fully expected that Bellator -- where his former Strikeforce boss Scott Coker is on a mission to sign every big-name free agent available -- will offer him a big-money deal once he reaches free agency.

It’s amazing timing for Mousasi, a fighter who many observers of the sport have pegged as a future UFC champion for the last decade since his days fighting in PRIDE. Mousasi had a fantastic run in Japan fighting for DREAM as well as an amazing run in Strikeforce, but it’s since he’s been in the UFC that he’s really taken the next step of his career, particularly as of late.

After beginning his UFC career with a win over Ilir Latifi, Mousasi lost to Lyoto Machida, then beat Mark Munoz, then lost to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Back-to-back wins over Dan Henderson and Costas Philippou put him back in good standing in the middleweight division, but a loss to Uriah Hall -- the first knockout loss of his iron-chinned career -- was a setback that could have really hurt his career.

Instead, the loss to Hall lit a fire under Mousasi, and since that loss to Hall he’s looked like an elite middleweight fighter, the guy who many predicted for years would be a future UFC champion. Over his last four fights, Mousasi is 4-0, with a decision win over Thales Leites, knockout wins over Thiago Santos and Vitor Belfort, and a brutal knockout victory over Hall to avenge that loss. He’s jumped into the top tier of the middleweight ranks, and could move even higher should he get by Weidman, the former middleweight champ, in the UFC 210 co-main event.

However, the UFC has shown this year by letting go of fighters such as Ryan Bader and Lorenz Larkin that the promotion is cutting costs, and Mousasi is set to make well over six figures a fight on his next contract. The last reported payout for Mousasi came at UFC 200 for his win over Santos, where Mousasi made $110,000 total ($75,000 to show plus $35,000 to win) plus an extra $50,000 for Performance of the Night. Bellator and Viacom have shown that they are willing to overpay for free agents such as Rory MacDonald, so they should have no problem doing the same for Mousasi if they really want him, and at that point it becomes a question of whether or not the UFC will match a deal. And this isn’t even considering that RIZIN could very well make Mousasi a massive offer to bring him back home to Japan, or that ONE FC or even World Series of Fighting could make him an offer.

Gegard Mousasi finds himself in a really good spot heading into UFC 210. He’s on a four-fight win streak at the moment and has looked like an elite middleweight during that stretch. A big win over Chris Weidman, especially if he finishes him, would give Mousasi even more ammunition heading into free agency. It’s a good time to be a free agent in MMA, and Mousasi has played his cards right, as he’s likely to cash in on a massive contract in the coming months. It’s possible Mousasi may never fight for UFC gold, but he’s a prizefighter, and if another organization offers him a big deal, there’s nothing wrong with him taking it. It will be interesting to see how Mousasi weighs potentially becoming a UFC champion against the bigger paydays that he’s likely to see if he leaves in free agency, and it makes this situation an intriguing one heading into the summer months.

UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 takes place April 8, 2017 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

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