In a move that mirrors the SPIKE/UFC partnership of 2005, Bellator will air on Thursdays starting next year, with a professional wrestling show as its lead-in.
MMA Junkie reports that Bellator Fighting Championships will debut on January 10th following TNA Impact Wrestling. Bellator's debut on Spike was confirmed by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, who noted that the year's first show will take place at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall.
Bellator officials were not immediately available for comment, but sources close to the promotion suggested that event will serve as Bellator 85 and mark the company's debut on Spike TV.
"The Jan. 10 has already been formally requested and officially reserved for Bellator in Atlantic City," NJSACB Counsel Nick Lembo told MMAjunkie.com.
TNA Impact Wrestling, which normally airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, has been a mild ratings success this year. It currently averages out at one million viewers a week with one show, which is a notable notch down from main competitor WWE, which pulls three to four million viewers on their Monday night RAW show alone.
Bellator, currently in its seventh season, hasn't done nearly as well on MTV2, with an average of 168,700 viewers (according to figures from MMA Payout), but that number will likely be surpassed once the promotion debuts on SPIKE.
Consider this the first opening salvo in the "UFC vs. Bellator" war for 2013, which actually started when SPIKE competitively re-scheduled UFC programming to devalue the MMA brand while it was in talks with various TV networks.
After signing a deal with Fox in late 2012, the UFC refused to buy their video library rights back from SPIKE, which rendered parent company Viacom contractually unable to show any other MMA programming—moving Bellator to Internet streams and MTV2.
Hence, Bellator has counter-scheduled various UFC events on Fuel and FX with old Ultimate Fighter episodes and UFC marathon shows.
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