The Bellator Fighting Championships, which will begin a 12-week fight series on ESPN Deportes in April, has confirmed to FiveOuncesOfPain.com that the promotion is interested in possibly signing former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney confirmed the news during an exclusive interview with Five Ounces of Pain on Friday.
“We’re absolutely interested in Paulo,” Rebney responded when asked if rumors that the promotion had engaged in talks with Filho were true. “…Paulo Filho is one of the best fighters in the world at his weight and a tremendously exciting guy to watch. If you look back, not long ago he was on everyone’s top ten list so he’s a guy we’re absolutely interested in.”
However, Rebney acknowledged recent reports in regard to some of Filho’s issues outside of fighting and cautioned that Bellator didn’t want to rush him back into competition before he is ready.
“He’s obviously had some difficulties of late,” said the founder and former owner of Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing. “He’s got an illness in his family with his dad, who he is obviously very close to, and that would tear up any of us and cause any of us to have a difficult time in pursuing our career, especially if it involved getting in a cage in front of millions of people on television and fighting… For right now, we’re trying to be more of a human being and my thoughts would be that I hope he gets into a better place so that he can come back and be the Paulo Filho that we all enjoy watching. And if that happens, I think any promotion in the world would be interested in a fighter of his caliber.”
Filho, 16-1, was released from his contract with Zuffa and the WEC soon after suffering the first loss of his career during a non-title matchup vs. Chael Sonnen at WEC 36 on Nov. 5. The Filho vs. Sonnen rematch was originally scheduled to be a title fight but the bout was changed to a three-round non-title affair after Filho was unable to make weight.
During the fight itself, Filho appeared uninterested in fighting and refused to engage with Sonnen, which led to a three-round unanimous decision loss that fans in attendance booed heavily.
WEC officials had made three prior attempts to schedule a rematch between both fighters with the fight being postponed once in September due to weather concerns, However, the first two postponements were due to the fact that Filho was in no condition to fight. Earlier this year it was reported that Filho sought inpatient treatment to deal with depression and chemical dependency.