On Monday, former WWE superstar Ryback appeared on a Las Vegas radio show, and he revealed that he was currently in talks with Bellator MMA. The announcement came as a bit of surprise because he’s never expressed interest in an MMA career in the past. However, according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, when he saw how much money CM Punk made from his UFC debut, he wanted to test out the MMA market.
On Monday’s Wrestling Observer Radio, Meltzer said that he’s spoken with Bellator MMA president Scott Coker about the Ryback negotiations, and Coker confirmed that he’s talked with the ex-WWE star about coming in, but they’re not close to making a deal.
Meltzer also said that whether Ryback fights or not will come down to money, simply because having a fight isn’t a bucket list thing for him like it was for CM Punk and Dave Bautista. So if Bellator is willing to give Ryback what he thinks he’s worth, he’ll end up fighting in the organization.
“I heard from [Scott] Coker today, and he said that they have talked, but they’re not close to a deal. I don’t expect it to happen – I’m just thinking that Ryback is thinking that, he sees what CM Punk made, and he’s thinking that maybe he can get that. But I don’t know that he can. From what I gather, Ryback will [fight] if the money is right.”
During his time in WWE, Ryback was never a huge draw on pay-per-view, with one exception, which was his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity against CM Punk in October of 2012. Ryback, who was filling in for an injured John Cena at the time, was undefeated, which is why the show sold so well. However, after Punk beat him with the help of referee Brad Maddox, “The Big Guy” never drew another big pay-per-view number.
Over the last couple of years, Ryback was used as a mid-card guy in WWE. His only singles title reign in the company came in 2015, when he held the Intercontinental Championship for a total of 112 days before losing it to Kevin Owens.
Bellator hasn’t shied away from doing the occasional freak show fight to help boost their television ratings. The most recent example of this was earlier this year when the Bellator 149 show was co-headlined by Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 and Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie. So, if Bellator believes that Ryback fighting will pop a huge rating, then they’ll probably pay top dollar to get him.
Now, here’s the fun part: Who will he fight if he actually signs with Bellator? Well, there are three options: Dave Bautista, Alberto Del Rio, and CM Punk.
When speaking at the UFC 203 post-fight press conference after his loss to Mickey Gall, CM Punk mentioned that he may get cut from the organization due to his lackluster performance. On top of that, UFC president Dana White told John Pollock of The Fight Network that Punk’s next fight “probably shouldn’t be in the UFC.” So if the UFC cuts Punk, then Bellator will probably swoop him up, and try to set up a Ryback vs. Punk fight.
Dave Bautista, who has a professional MMA record of 1-0, hasn’t competed since October of 2012 when he defeated Vince Lucero via TKO in the very first round. Of course, Bautista and Ryback are similar in size, so if the man formerly known as “The Animal” is interested in fighting again, Bellator would be crazy not to pick him up, because a Bautista vs. Ryback MMA bout would definitely pop a huge rating.
Alberto Del Rio hasn’t fought in several years, and he hasn’t really shown any interest in returning to the world of MMA. However, when Del Rio last left WWE in 2014, it was reported by MMA Fighting that Bellator was interested in bringing him in. Like Ryback, it’s all about the money with Del Rio, and if Bellator feels that he’s worth it and that a fight between the two recently released WWE stars would do big business, then we could see Del Rio sign a deal with the UFC’s chief competitor.
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