Bellator Fighting Championship: The Impact, or Lack Thereof

It’s ironic that I’m writing this commentary on the impact, or lack thereof, Bellator Fighting Championship has had on the MMA scene. I wrote a feature on the company for the April issue of Fight! Magazine, which focused on their infrastructure and ideology. I spoke at great length with CEO Bjorn Rebney and matchmaker Matt Stansell. I even chopped it up with Jon Anik for a few minutes last week and was slated to speak with Jason Chambers from “Human Weapon” (and that sure as hell isn’t like my human weapon – giggity).

In any event, the whole staff at Bellator are some of the nicest and most professional folks in the business. They’re a class act. They really are. So does Bear care about Bellator Fighting Championship? Definitely. Just not enough to order ESPN Deportes (The Ocho?) to watch it.

I don’t get it on my DirecTV and I’m not going to shell out however much extra it is a month to get it. Since I, and most folks, probably, go out almost every Saturday night I would be missing it anyways. And if I am watching MMA on Saturday night, it’s usually a live UFC or Strikeforce event.

Even if I were at home or at a bar, look what season Bellator airs during – the NBA and NHL playoffs. If I’m at a bar, what am I more inclined to watch? A championship sporting event that is happening right now, or a show that is pre-taped 36 hours in advance (and re-aired on the Internet for free on Wednesdays)?

As an MMA journalist with a social life, the bottom line is Bellator doesn’t have anything spectacular enough to keep me from going out and sitting at home on Saturday Night. Sure there are some exciting fights, but I know Eddie Alvarez is going to stomp his way to the lightweight tournament championship. Yeah, Hector Lombard is a beast. Wilson Reis and Joe Soto had a solid throw down. And yeah, that Jorge Masvidal submission loss was surprising, and wicked cool to see. Then again, I saw that clip on YouTube the next day.

Fortunately, the Internet has kept folks like myself in the loop. I’ve seen a few broadcasts of Bellator FC on Wednesday nights and it’s cool. The show has good production and some dope fights. It’s like a jazzier looking version of the ShoMMA series. But once again, Bellator airs tape delayed on an ESPN channel you probably don’t have on a night you probably won’t be home to watch it.

I know whoever wins the tournament will get $150,000 and the distinction of being called champion. But we all know these champions in four different weight classes (featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight) won’t be the best fighters in the world. That title belong to Michael Thomas Brown, BJ Penn, GSP and Anderson Silva.

Nonetheless, Bellator (when it is on) produces some quality action and it’s still better than watching Kalib Starnes moping moon walking around in the cage.

The good news is that there are plans for a second season, but when that happens is unknown. There are also rumblings that ESPN 2 might carry the show on its next go-around, but that remains to be seen.

Although Bellator is still a young project, it has the potential to be massive. If they had a Thursday or Friday night type gig going on with ESPN 2 and it happened during the summer on a weekly basis, it could be gigantic. The fight organization already has that destination programming thing pimpin’. If they could just graduate to a more visible ESPN network and change to a night when people aren’t going out to party, they’d definitely pull in more viewers and their company could grow.

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