Bellator Fighting Championships has been waiting since late 2011 to make their debut on Spike TV. Next Thursday, it's finally happening.
CEO Bjorn Rebney is excited, if not a little anxious.
"It was probably a longer time than some of us wanted," Rebney said at a media conference call, at which Bleacher Report was present.
However, Rebney saw the silver lining in the contractually obligated MTV2 clouds that kept his promotion away from Spike TV in 2012. "Just a lot of time to prep, a lot of time to get ready, a lot of time to do it right. What you're gonna see next Thursday night on Spike at 10:00 is the best of what we have," he said.
Rebney is referring to several things when he says "best of what we have." There are, of course, the fights and fighters. There are two title fights on the card. Michael Chandler will defend his lightweight title against Rick Hawn, while Pat Curran will attempt to keep his featherweight title from the hands of Patricio "Pitbull" Freire.
However, there's also the rarely-thought-of back end of an MMA television production. It's there that Spike TV is making a huge difference, according to Rebney.
"It is a different looking show," said Rebney.
Bellator's Spike TV debut will display "a really great television production in terms of everything from graphics, to sound, to production enhancements we've been going through over the last couple of months," he said.
"It’ll be in HD everywhere across the country that you want to watch it, in 100 million homes...The difference between SD and HD is night and day," he said.
But clearer, brighter production values aren't all the Spike TV debut promises to deliver. Rebney was sure to note this, saying that Bellator on Spike TV would have "a new graphics package, new opens, and new feature pieces that we’re shooting with home follows where we’ve been going into the gym with Rick [Hawn] and going into the Gym with Pat [Curran] and Mike [Chandler] and Patricio [Freire] etc."
Gone are the days of Bellator's dark, dreary production values that made you feel like you were watching a fight going on in some dingy, bush-league venue.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Spike TV has had an impact for Bellator in that area as well.
"When you have a partner like Spike, it opens up a lot of doors," Rebney said. "But with the Spike alliance, from a sponsorship perspective, from a casino perspective, from a venue perspective, international and on and on, It’s opened up door after door after door...it's opened up a lot of opportunities for us at bigger venues in more prolific areas."
It’s really about fights and it’s about the push and it’s about the branding that opens up those doors. Also it’s the 10:00 start. Look at the events we’re talking about, Albuquerque, Dallas, the greater southern California market. Those were not available opportunities to us when we had an 8:00 start, because for the west coast you’re talking about a 5:00 live to TV. And on a weeknight on a Thursday night, that wouldn’t fly. Now with a 10:00 start coming off of [TNA Impact Wrestling], you’ve got a 7:00 live to TV on the west coast. So it works perfectly for us. It’s opened up doors to us in hotbeds of mixed martial arts. It's opened up a lot of doors to us that weren’t open in the past based on timing and based on the Spike partnership that we got.
The MMA world has less than a week to see if his talk has any substance to it. Rebney himself, however, is practically giddy thinking about the event.
"We have done 84 events over the last four years and I can tell you with all truth and sincerity I’ve never been more excited about sitting cageside than I am for next Thursday’s premier event on Spike," he said.
Bellator 85—their inaugural event on Spike TV—will take place on January 17th. It is headlined by a lightweight title fight between champion Mike Chandler and challenger Rick Hawn. The Bellator featherweight title will also be contested when champion Pat Curran meets Patricio "Pitbull" Freire.