Time to stop grading Bellator on a curve. Bellator MMA may be a distant second in the MMA promotional pecking order, behind the UFC, but in Bellator’s central battlefield of cable television, Bellator could – and should – be the dominate promotion of televised MMA.
While the UFC was presenting a third tier Fox Sports 1 card on Nov. 19, Bellator showcased a card that announced the signing of MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, and concluded with a much anticipated championship bout between Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler. Yet as the ratings have rolled it, it is apparent that the UFC still won the night. Not, only should this be demoralizing for Bellator, it should also be seen as unacceptable.
The Bellator brand may never have the cachet that the UFC carries, but from a cable television perspective, Bellator has several advantages over the UFC. Primarily, Bellator has the luxury of not having to be concerned with selling pay-per-views. Unlike Bellator, the UFC bears the burden of having to supply content on four different platforms: Network Television, Cable Television, Live Stream, and Pay-Per-View)
As a promotion that is only concerned with television performance, Bellator can logically put their marquee fights on cable television without sacrificing revenue. While it is fair to question just how many “money” fights Bellator actually has in their inventory; the promotion undoubtedly has recognizable MMA stars. Sure, Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey supersede anything that Bellator could produce. However, fortunately for Bellator, they are not in all actuality competing with the top shelf stars of the UFC Additionally, the Bellator product is tailor made for a television audience.
Bellator exists on both fringes of the MMA world. The promotion attracts the most ardent MMA fans, including those who can name fighters on the Bellator prelims and who will watch everything MMA. Perhaps even more importantly, Bellator pulls in the casual channel surfer, those viewers who recognize stars from the initial MMA boom period of the 2000s.
The general sports public might be reluctant to pay significant money to watch Chael Sonnen, Tito Ortiz, and Fedor Emelianenko fight in 2016, but with only a cable subscription needed to watch, Bellator is much more accessible than their counterparts. Speaking of access, Bellator is more widely available on cable television than the UFC. As of 2015, Bellator’s television partner Spike TV is available in approximately 8,000 more homes than the UFC’s television partner Fox Sports 1.
None of this is to suggest that Bellator can or will ever compete across the board with the UFC. The UFC is a powerful machine that has history, star power, and an ambitious new ownership group on its side. However, despite their structured disadvantages, in terms of cable television, Bellator is in a position of power over the UFC.
Over the last year Bellator, has shown that they are willing to take chances, even at the expense of the MMA community deriding them for promotional stunts. Putting those notions aside, Bellator has the tools to be the premier MMA cable television promotion in America. MMA fans should expect no less.
Another Bellator Take
With the UFC in a lull period post-UFC 205, Bellator has become a topic of discussion over the previous two weeks. Examining the roll of Bellator in the MMA landscape, Eric Stinton of Sherdog.com penned an interesting piece titled: “Bellator MMA and the Roll of Competition.” Stinton makes an interesting argument, positioning Bellator as the closest thing to a fighters union in the current climate.
While it may be easy to brand Bellator as a knockoff version of the UFC – as I did in September – it is often overlooked how the promotion serves as an alternative employment avenue for fighters.
The Importance of Urijah
By announcing his retirement nearly two years in advance, Urijah Faber has allowed plenty of time for MMA pundits to reflect on his historical career. One such reflection came courtesy of Dave Meltzer of MMAFghting.com. The gist of his piece is summed up in the title: “Urijah Faber is the key figure historically in establishing lighter weight MMA.”
By taking a look behind the scenes of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in the late 2000s, an interesting picture is painted of a pioneering fighter, who influenced major decisions of television networks and MMA promotions alike.
With the current rise of smaller fighters as mainstream attractions, Faber’s impact on the sport should not be forgotten. While fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture will always be rightly remembered for their major contributions to the UFC’s ascent in the mid-to-late 2000s, Faber also deserves mention for his role in changing so many of the stereotypes that were once associated with MMA.
A hat tip to FloCombat
FloCombat.com might not yet be the most well-known MMA media outlet, but MMA fans would be wise to start working FloCombat into their regular rotation of MMA news sources. As a part of the FloSports network, FloCombat regularly streams MMA and other martial arts content via their streaming network. However, recently FloCombat has emerged as a source of relevant breaking MMA news.
Notably, FloCombat reported on the impending fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione on October 29, a full three weeks before the official fight announcement. With a healthy mix of opinion columns, news analysis, and original reporting, FloCombat has all the tools to be a major player in the MMA media landscape.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S MEDIA & BUSINESS COLUMN: Ronda Rousey shunning MMA media is doing her no favors in the lead up to UFC 205
(Robert Vallejos writes a new Specialist column for MMATorch titled “Media & Business” focused on, you guessed it, the media coverage of MMA and the business side of MMA. He is fascinated by the presentation, business decisions, media strategy, and press coverage of both UFC and MMA as a whole, and will bring that curiosity to explore and delve into that side of MMA to his weekly Specialist column here at MMATorch. He explains his approach: “As a sport in its relative infancy, MMA does not receive the same level of scrutiny and informed analysis from the sports media as other more established entities. This is why it is vital for independent outlets such MMATorch to grow, while featuring a variety of voices. Unlike mainstream outlets, MMATorch is not beholden to any organization. Therefore I believe it is essential for individuals such as myself to explain not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of MMA.”)