MMA: Is Bellator Preparing for a War Against the UFC?
Bellator has always been that younger brother that's striven for respect and attention, but instead, found only jokes mocking them or ended up with a black eye courtesy of big brother: the UFC.
The UFC has been the clear-cut number one promotion in town for quite some time, but the ranking of number two has always been a bit clouded. Pride FC and Strikeforce both laid claim to the number two gig until Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, bought them out.
Now with no number two promotion in town, Bellator will be inserted into that slot.
The two promotions have always been on opposite sides of the fence. Like two dogs barking at one another through little gaps, the two have exchanged unpleasantries, but for the most part, have never gone head-to-head with one another.
That may change now, as it seems Bellator is amping itself up to be a major player in the MMA market.
Bellator has finally moved on from the horrendous TV deal with MTV2 that did nothing for either side involved. Now the promotion has moved to Spike TV and is backed by the powerful media company Viacom.
That not only gives Bellator a prime TV deal, but also quite a big bank account of money to use.
The differences in Bellator's product have been obvious since the move to Spike. Everything is better, and the promotion from Spike TV and its shows has been outstanding. Just try watching TNA: Impact for five minutes without hearing some mention of Bellator.
Bellator is even replicating the strategy used by the UFC to attract viewers to their product by creating a reality show much like The Ultimate Fighter. And just like the UFC, Bellator has hired two influential figures to be the inaugural season's head coaches in Frank Shamrock and Greg Jackson.
Another small but important note of Bellator's reality show is there won't be any exhibition fights on the show. Every fight will count on a fighter's record, which could lead to an improvement in the quality of fights, something the UFC has been struggling with for years with TUF.
I'm still not sold on the tournament angle being Bellator's main selling point. I love the tournament format as a fan, but it just doesn't work in this business anymore. There are too many variables for it to be successful, and hopefully Bellator can work out those kinks and build a product to rival that of the UFC.
It's not that I'm anti-UFC or part of the Dana White haters out there, but I think both sides will bring out their A-game if the playing fields were level.
I'll use an analogy that many of you can understand.
When EA Sports' Madden franchise saw the upstart NFL 2K series begin to take shape, I'm sure the bigwigs at EA found it amusing. Then, the 2K crew began changing the face of sports gaming by offering their product at a lower cost and introducing some revolutionary features, even if they didn't pan out so well.
The healthy competition between the two forced EA Sports to innovate their product and make noticeable changes to Madden each year.
Now, with no competition in sight, the game suffers each year from barely being anything more than a roster update.
If Bellator were to somehow rise to the occasion and become a serious player in the MMA scene rather than a punchline, it could force White and the UFC to up their game. If the UFC has no problems attempting to expand the sport and its brand now with little competition in the sport, just imagine what they could accomplish if they knew there were serious implications.
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