Bellator's Business Model Will Become Their Downfall
Bellator is the second-largest promotion after the UFC in MMA today.
Having just been bought by Viacom a few months ago, the company is in better shape than it was a few years ago.
They are now on cable TV appearing on MTV2 and are slated for Spike TV in 2013.
Things should be looking up for Bellator, and the future is looking bright.
Except that with the format in which they deliver fights, they are going to be plagued with problems that will limit their ability to compete with the UFC.
Innovation is always a good thing, but unless Bellator finds a way to tweak their existing product, they are going to have terrible numbers no matter what channel they end up on.
Tournaments Are Hard to Keep Functioning
The most obvious flaw is one that might be unfixable.
Bellator is known for their tournament format, but to keep it going they have to start with every fighter in the original bracket not getting injured.
Then the fighters that win have to remain injury-free so that they can proceed through the tournament.
Nothing terrible has happened yet, but it is only a matter of time before several fighters have to pull out of main events in the finals for different weight classes.
Having that kind of chaos will diminish the impact of the events and harm the company's earnings.
Bellator's tournaments run in seasons.
There is nothing wrong with this on a business level.
In fact, it makes sense, because the tournaments can only host so many weight classes at one time.
It presents two problems, though.
One is that there is an offseason for Bellator. One of the best things about combat sports is there is never an offseason.
Fighters are always scheduled for another match year round. To have an offseason weakens the brand, because it means no exposure.
The second problem is that it keeps fighters from some of the other weight classes off TV.
This doesn't help the brand, which leads to the next point...
Pay-per-view is the ultimate goal of any promotional company.
It is where they make their real money and how they keep generating revenue.
In an MMA company, that is built on stars.
Those stars are who fans pay money to see. By putting them on revolving seasons, it makes it hard for fans to connect with one fighter and shell out money to see them.
Bellator isn't to a PPV model yet, but if it can't get a few notable stars out there in the public eye, there will be no point in trying to do so, because the fans won't pay to see them.
Too Many Weight Classes
This ties in with the fact that Bellator has seasons.
There are too many weight classes to properly show them off or make stars for the company.
The other problem with the amount of weight classes Bellator has is the fact that they have to pay heavyweights and light heavyweights.
These are two costly divisions, and the UFC outshines them in both.
Instead of trying to have every weight class like the UFC, Bellator should focus on a few weight classes (like the WEC did) and bulk up their roster.
That way they can make stars, show the same weight classes consistently and deepen their roster.
Matthew Hemphill writes for the boxing, MMA, and professional wrestling portion of Bleacher Report. He also hosts a blog elbaexiled.blogspot.com which focuses on books, music, comic books, video games, film and generally anything that could be related to the realms of nerdom.