Going into Bellator: Fight Master contestants Steve Montgomery and Cristiano Souza were both preparing to potentially take a major step forward in their careers by competing in a tournament on Spike TV aimed at developing as well as improving the profiles of lesser-known talent. Better yet, each was entering the field with a friend and teammate in tow, as both are members of American Top Team. However, any dreams of a successful run to the final alongside each other quickly turned to nightmares when they were booked for a qualifying bout against each other.

Souza went on to knock Montgomery out and make it on the show, leaving a taste in the 22-year old’s mouth bitterer than that from the defeat.

“Usually, I go out there and expect to go out on my shield or with my hand raised so that went against my primal mindset. The friend aspect interrupted that and he timed me perfectly and clocked me with a right hand which set off the finish,” said Montgomery to MMAMania of how the dynamic affected his performance.

“Me and ‘Soldier’ were worried that if we didn’t fight, we’d get our contracts held and only fight once in 18 months and there were a lot of things that basically forced us to fight. I didn’t even want to be there anymore, having to fight my friend for free to get on the show and try to steal his opportunity and he’s got to steal mine,” he continued. “I felt exploited.”

The 4-1 Montgomery has gone on to spin the situation in a positive light, expressing relief that as a result Bellator released him from his contract instead of making him wait until September to fight.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about Bellator and I was just happy to get my release from Bellator,” he explained. “We got out of the contract and I appreciated that they released me from the contract cold turkey. I was very happy about that and I booked a fight last April. I fought a real tough guy and beat him in a minute with a highlight reel finish so I was really happy to come back strong from it.”