LaRue Burley was nearly done with the sport of mixed martial arts before getting a call to fight at Bellator 100 in 2013 against Bubba Jenkins.
Burley (5-0) was a massive underdog in the fight as Jenkins closed as a 15-1 favorite, but Burley would finish Jenkins in the third round and immediately made it known he was someone to keep an eye out for.
He would follow up that win with a decision victory over Cliff Wright and a submission win over Raymond Pina. The victory over Pina was the last fight on Burley’s contract with Bellator and in a surprising move, Bellator decided to not offer him a deal and the undefeated fighter out of Power MMA in Arizona is now a free agent.
“I only had a three fight deal and at the end of the last fight, they [Bellator] said they wanted to talk but they went around and told my coach that they had a lot of money tied up in other fighters,” Burley said on The MMA Report Live. “I think it’s a joke because I have seen that they signed Kimbo Slice. It’s nothing against Kimbo Slice — you have all of these older fighters that retire from the UFC and they are now fighting again but you don’t have money to sign one person that beat you so called top prospect. Not beat him like lucky, destroyed him.”
“I could have took Bubba out in the first round if I wanted to. I knew if I went that route, it would be a fluke so I wanted to make sure I submitted him or knocked him out, so they could not say it was a fluke. In the end, I am trying to get a championship level caliber fighter. I want to be either be in the UFC or Bellator and if I can get to the UFC, which everyone knows has the bigger stage. It only makes them [Bellator] look bad, if I continue to win and become a top ten fighter in the world.”
When you think about the vision of Bellator heading forward, you think of a promotion that wants to put on big fights and fights with talented fighters. From the outside looking in, you can’t help but wonder why Bellator would not want to sign a fighter like Burley. With his contract expired, has Burley closed the door on returning to Bellator?
“You had me and you did not want me,” Burley said. “Now that you do not want me. If I go win fights in other leagues and get a call from the UFC, are you going to come back then and offer me a contract? You had me and you should have not let me go. I think the door is closed and I do not see myself going back.”
While the door could be closed on Burley returning to Bellator, there is one scenario where he could end up back there. The simple answer, Bubba Jenkins.
“I heard Bubba was talking again, which is a joke. Talking about how he wants to fight me again and all of that now that he knows I am not with Bellator,” he said. “He wants to be all big and bad and talk loud, but when I saw him at the last fight when we were on the same card, I saw him at the hotel. He got in the elevator, we were face to face. This man turned his head down and walked away. He did not say nothing to me. I would go back on an one fight deal just to put him out but besides that, I really do not want to go back to Bellator.”
In his last fight in Bellator, Burley injured his knee and he had to get that taken care of. After he recovered from that injury, he did not have any fights booked so he began to play flag football since he grew up playing football and played arena football. He suffered a hamstring injury playing flag football, but his coach is currently working on getting him a fight in April with RFA. A major reason in why Burley wants to go to a promotion like RFA is due to the friendly contracts that allow fighters to leave for the UFC.
“If I can go into the RFA and win two or three straight, getting into the UFC, I do not think it will be a problem. I am just trying to get to that level. Where I can showcase and see if I am really a top ten fighter. I believe I am, but until I get there and start fighting those top ten caliber guys, I will never know and nobody will ever know.”