Easier said than done, but Justin Gaethje took what the UFC gave him, spun gold, and the "machine" is now behind him.
We've seen it happen before. A former champion from another organization shows up, they lose, and their previous efforts are minimalized. It didn't happen as prominently with PRIDE and Strikeforce -- perhaps because those are now UFC-owned entities. Bellator and WSOF have been the primary victims.
WSOF double champion David Branch won a top-10 fight in May against Krzysztof Jotko. The fight was far from an exciting one, and went to a split decision. Either way, Dave Brach's outstanding win streak moves to 11, including wins over Yushin Okami, Paulo Filho, Jesse Taylor. We'll give UFC the benefit of the doubt. Branch turns 36 this year and didn't have a banger of a re-debut.
Marlon Moraes was another dominant WSOF Champion, and dropped a close fight to perennial top-5 bantamweight Raphael Assuncao last month at UFC 212. The overwhelming majority of viewers and media scored the fight for Moraes and consider the decision a bad one. No campaigning by the UFC President Dana White for a terrible decision, no talk of Moraes being in the discussion at 135 pounds.
Jessica Aguilar was the consensus top 115-pounder in the world when she signed with the UFC after being WSOF Champion. She was appropriately thrown to the wolves in the form of Claudia Gadelha, then lost to Cortney Casey. There's really no one to blame but herself in that situation. She's fought once since 2015, and has reached 35 years old.
Eddie Alvarez found eventual success, perhaps an exception to the rule. He stuttered early with a loss to Donald Cerrone after leaving Bellator as Lightweight Champion. After facing one of the toughest six year runs of opponents in lightweight history, Alvarez is a fixture in UFC's lightweight division.
Lyman Good is a pretty succinct story. Once Bellator Champ, years removed from glory lost his fight to get into the TUF house in 2015. He'd make it back to the UFC with a win in 2015, but was sidelined for a year due to a USADA violation.
Hector Lombard's career could be as good as over just five years after his UFC debut. A Bellator Middleweight champion, Lombard was 31-2 before starting with the company. He's now 39 and has three wins in his nine UFC fights. Ouch.
Perhaps the saddest story is that of Will Brooks. at 19-1, Brooks was a key piece of the Bellator Lightweight division. He left after winning four straight title fights, and debuted against Ross Pearson in a fight that didn't turn heads. Months later, his opponent Alex Oliveira missed weight by six pounds, which arguably could have helped lead to the finish. Earlier this year, Brooks moved to 1-2 in UFC.
Jusin Gaethje could be different. Joe Rogan said a star was born. Dana White wanted to book him against Tony Ferguson. Karyn Bryant and Brian Stann were glowing. Gaethje was put in a spot to sink or swim, and jumped into the deep end. He won a main event in exciting fashion and has the UFC marketing power behind him. Could this end the curse, or is it an anomaly to be ignored?