Bellator 106 has wrapped up. The results are as follows:
Eddie Alvarez defeats Michael Chandler by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Emanuel Newton defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Daniel Straus defeats Pat Curran by unanimous decision (49-45, 48-46, 48-46)
Joe Riggs defeats Mike Bronzoulis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Mike Richman defeats Akop Stepanyan by technical knockout via punches at 4:05 of Round 1
Cristiano Souza defeats Alejandro Garcia by submission via rear-naked choke at 3:06 of Round 3
Brandon Halsey defeats Hector Ramirez by technical knockout via punches at 0:52 of Round 1
Mike Guymon defeats Aaron Miller by submission via triangle choke at 4:20 of Round 2
Cleber Luciano defeats Joe Camacho by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Josh Smith defeats Darren Smith by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jesse Juarez defeats Joe Smith by submission via guillotine choke at 0:57 of Round 1
Now, it's time to talk about Bellator's past, present and future. This was a huge card for the promotion that went wrong at first and then went right in many, many ways.
How will that impact things? What should fans look out for? What lies over the horizon? Read on to find out.
When Eddie Alvarez settled his lawsuit with Bellator on August, Ariel Helwani tweeted the following:
… per the contract terms. I just asked Alvarez about that, but he said he can't talk about the contract right now. So that's where we stand.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) August 13, 2013
One more note: last week, a solid source told me the deal was if Alvarez lost, he can walk away. If he won, he has to do the trilogy. ...— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) August 13, 2013
Well, now he has the belt and is absolutely untouchable for Viacom. With Lawal losing a beyond-bad title fight with Emanuel Newton, Pat Curran getting exposed in his loss to Daniel Straus, Ben Askren going toward the door (more on him later), Cheick Kongo failing to draw ratings and other champions like Eduardo Dantas, Attila Vegh and Alexander Volkov remaining a mystery to fans, a rubber match between Alvarez and Chandler is the only, and I mean only, thing that Bellator has going for it right now.
Obviously, Alvarez won the fight and now holds too many cards for Viacom to ignore. He can make lots of demands right now. While time used to be the weapon that Viacom employed in smoking Alvarez out of the UFC, time is now his ally. He can hold that fight hostage now, when the iron is at its hottest.
Assuming Helwani's source is correct, we could see Alvarez either pressure Viacom into a substantially better contract offer or possibly hold the event hostage to secure his unrestricted free agency after the rubber match, which Bjorn Rebney indicated was in the works during the Bellator 106 post-fight press conference.
This is the biggest story coming out of the night, and man, it should be a great one to read.
Bellator has been putting up fairly consistent numbers in Season 9. Or at least, they've been consistently lower than Season 8. While Bellator's initial run on Spike TV saw ratings fluctuate between 950,000 and 700,000, the Summer Series and Season 9 have failed to even touch that floor.
Bellator 106, though, pulled out all the stops. It got all the press. It had all the draws.
Will the ratings reflect that? If not, what then? If they provide a serious boost, will Bellator try to do megacards again?
This event was a huge deal for Bellator, so it's important to watch the immediate fallout.
It seems like "Rampage" may be keeping himself completely out of the title equation.
I was on the Bellator conference call immediately after it was announced that Tito Ortiz was withdrawing from his fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. The questions were many, but one thing that came up a few times was Attila Vegh and how he fit into the picture at the top of the card.
Bellator CEO Rebney opened up a bit about the reports earlier this year that Bellator had cut the light heavyweight champ out of the pay-per-view card in favor of the more exciting rematch between Emanuel Newton and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. Interestingly, Rebney discussed how he planned to bring Vegh in as an alternate, should either of the bouts on the main card fall through.
Well, one of the main card bouts fell through, and apparently a suitable replacement was waiting to step in. So then...what the hell happened?
Jackson has always been clear that he didn't join Bellator, he joined Viacom, and he didn't join Viacom to fight. He joined Viacom to land a gig in pro wrestling, get his foot in the door with Paramount Pictures, star in a reality show and, when he doesn't have anything else on his plate, fit in a little something with Bellator.
That isn't to criticize Rampage in the slightest. He has been fighting professionally for more than a decade, and if he wants to have the sort of relationship with Bellator that Cung Le has with the UFC these days, then more power to him. Being Bellator's champion would hinder him more than help him in that regard.
With a lot riding on Jackson, Viacom wouldn't want to throw him under the bus the same way Dana White did to Jon Jones after UFC 151's cancellation.
That's all 100 percent theory, though. I don't know the answer, and only a few people know for certain what actually went down.
Right or wrong, smart or dumb, Viacom has irrevocably intertwined real fighting promotion Bellator MMA with its fake fighting organization of choice, TNA Wrestling.
Feelings on this still range from one end of the gamut to the other but are ultimately irrelevant for this discussion. What's worth discussing is what will happen with the recent news that there is a "for sale" sign in front of TNA's headquarters, according to David Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer.
A lot of moving parts are at work that, frankly, I'm completely unqualified to speculate on. Regardless, it's unclear how TNA, Bellator and the fighters who have appeared on both are related.
Does Lawal have two separate contracts with TNA and Bellator? Is Tito Ortiz contracted to Viacom, which leases him out to Bellator and TNA? Does Rampage have a fixed amount of air time he is promised per month across all Viacom properties?
I don't know, but all of these situations are possible. There are many, many moving parts to these sorts of contracts, and that doesn't even get into what would happen with TNA if it gets sold or simply shuts down. Only time will answer this question.
Tito Ortiz doesn't need to fight anymore but seems committed to do so.
One of the things that made Tito Ortiz's comeback with Bellator so perplexing was the fact that he just didn't need to make a comeback.
He made more than $4 million during his UFC career. That's just what got reported too, so it doesn't take into account sponsorships, undisclosed bonuses, undisclosed pay-per-view points and so forth. He has (or at least had) money.
He has major financial interests in his clothing line, Punishment Athletics and gym, the Punishment Training Center. There is also the bitter breakup with Jenna Jameson that has left him with custody of their children. He has (and will continue to have) plenty on his plate.
So why add to that by trying to return to the cage? The supposedly serious neck injury should be a clear wake-up call that his body has quit on him, but he indicated afterward that he was going back to the gym and presumably will still try to make a comeback with Bellator.
Bellator will almost certainly accept him back as a fighter. The fact the Punishment logo appears alongside other major sponsors of the promotion like Miller Lite and Dave and Busters indicates that Ortiz and Bellator are hooked up tightly at this time, so it's just a matter of how and when the promotion will deploy him.
As Anthony Pettis said a few weeks ago, Ben Askren is lost between organizations right now.
That's only speaking about his future in MMA, though. The "Funky" business is doing just fine right now due to his top billing in the Agon Wrestling Championship, an actual professional wrestling organization (like real wrestling, not WWE).
I doubt it pays as well as what he was making in Bellator. He almost certainly isn't making what he would if he were allowed to simply walk. But the thing is, it means he has something going on.
That didn't seem to be the case with Eddie Alvarez. He may or may not be a better mixed martial artist than Ben Askren, but Bellator held his livelihood for ransom when it refused to let him walk to the UFC. Askren, though, can keep himself busy on the mat, whether there is a cage around it or not.
At the very least, it seems like Askren has the freedom to choose a lengthy "vacation" followed by true free agency. So will Viacom, Rebney and Bellator make him do so? Or will they realize that Askren is actually in control of his own fate and let him leave for another promotion without artificially pausing his MMA career?
Obviously they don't get anything from Askren sitting. They already have a bout lined up to crown his replacement (Douglas Lima vs. whoever wins the Season 9 welterweight tournament). The only real benefit to making Askren sit is to re-assert their authority over anybody who wants to leave.
So will they let him walk? Or will they basically just toy with him?
This was Bjorn Rebney speaking with Bleacher Report in January
We follow a real sport format like what we're watching right now in the NFL playoffs. You've got to earn it...I've always felt the best fighter should earn his way to a title shot. It should be about winning, not how good your hair looks or how well you talk. It should be about the competition. And at the core that's who we are.
In theory, a sport-first promotion is a great idea. In theory, it would lend a greater legitimacy to MMA than ever before. In theory, fans will be all over it.
Alas, for all the hypothesizing, that isn't the reality. Even the greatest devotee of the second-largest promotion in America would admit he would rather see Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler 2 than Michael Chandler vs. Dave Jansen. Right now, everyone is probably rooting for Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler 3 over Alvarez vs. Jansen.
Sure, Jansen earned a title shot by beating Magomed Saadulaev, Ricardo Tirloni and Marcin Held. Do fans care, though? Hell no.
Alvarez didn't win a tournament and, as such, didn't earn a title shot the same way essentially every other Bellator contender has since the promotion's beginning. The thing is, fans preferred a rematch between Chandler and Alvarez in the same way they wanted to see Georges St-Pierre fight Nick Diaz instead of Johny Hendricks. For that reason, Bellator made it happen.
Is there anything wrong with that? No. It's just that Bellator needs to embrace the fact that it is putting on the fights that fans want to see, not the ones that, strictly speaking, it "should" be.
Bellator is no longer all about tournaments. The fact that its biggest event ever was broken by a truly inconsequential fight between Ortiz and Rampage shows that. That isn't a bad thing unless the promotion continues to pretend that isn't the case.
While the UFC draws a huge number of its fighters from the United States, Brazil and East Asia, a huge portion of the Bellator roster comes from Europe (and Russia, for those who don't consider Russia part of Europe).
Sure, the UFC doesn't completely ignore Europe between Alexander Gustafsson, Michael Bisping, Martin Kampmann and the like. That said, over the last 18 months, Europe has been to Bellator what Brazil is to the UFC.
The promotion currently has two Russian champions in Alexander Shlemenko and Alexander Volkov, who sit atop the middleweight and heavyweight divisions, respectively. The light heavyweight champion, Attila Vegh, is from Slovakia, and he won the belt from Christian M'Pumbu of France. Russia has produced five out of 12 tournament winners in the three most recent seasons.
Suffice it to say, Bellator gets a lot of its top fighters from Europe. The UFC isn't going to stand for that anymore, though.
As you might have heard, the UFC is kicking off a European Tour, which is set to establish a presence across the continent while simultaneously scooping up talent. That is especially bad for Bellator, as it loses the one place where it actually got the pick of the proverbial litter.
So what is Bellator to do then?
Basically, the options are to get into a tug-of-war with the UFC as well as foreign promotions like KSW and M-1 or find new places to draw fighters from like Cuba, Thailand or the Middle East. What Bellator ultimately chooses to do will be worth keeping track of.
The writing was on the wall that the PPV may have flopped even with Ortiz. So will Bellator try again?
So Tito Ortiz will probably still be around with Bellator. Rampage will face fellow UFC castoff Joey Beltran. Bellator also just got a legitimately interesting main event in Alvarez vs. Chandler III.
So will Bellator try and do a take two on a pay-per-view?
Bjorn Rebney was quick to say that for-pay events were in Bellator's future, but he was vague over whether anything else was lined up.
Following Bellator 106, the promotion is in a stronger position than ever to put together a big card.
Consider a card headlined by Alvarez vs. Chandler III, backed up with some combination of Tito Ortiz, Rampage, "King" Mo Lawal and the loser of the upcoming Attila Vegh vs. Emanuel Newton title fight. Pepper in another title fight or two. Top it all off with a Season 10 tournament final.
Well damn, that actually sounds decent.
On the other hand, putting together a pay-per-view is hard. There were lots of cautionary tales before and during the card.
It's possible that Bellator may focus on Spike for the indefinite future. Alvarez's days with the promotion are still probably numbered, which makes any sort of dependence on him a risk. Waiting would also allow the promotion to sit, wait and let new champions develop fanbases while letting older, established champions mature into possible stars.
Bellator has potential draws. It has somebody who recaptures the mystique of Fedor Emelianenko in Alexander Shlemenko. It has a great knockout artist in Eduardo Dantas. It has numerous solid fighters not wearing belts.
Will Bellator play it safe? Or will it try and push it again?
The UFC is trying to establish itself in South and Central America. So is Bellator.
From the 1970s all the way into the 1990s, PepsiCo. and the Coca-Cola Company actively scrambled to South America, hoping to plant their proverbial flags in untapped markets.
Both of them were in a dirty footrace, pulling the other's hair, horse collaring and tripping. They did whatever they possibly could to get that first foot into the door of whatever country that happened to be next on the list. Once they planted flags, they continued with the attempts at one-upping, as they tried to undercut their competition with smearing, buyouts of local bottling and canning facilities and various strong-arm tactics.
That could be the next step for MMA.
Sure, there are a few promotions in Central and South America. That said, none of them has the reach, size, talent or cash not to get steamrolled by the larger American promotions.
Bellator, obviously, is the Pepsi in this equation, but the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Panama or Cuba doesn't know that. Those countries may have no idea what MMA is, but they have an established interest in combat sports.
That is what makes Bellator's deal with Fox Sports Latin America so deadly.
FOX Sports Latin America has been looking for the premier mixed martial arts organization to partner with, and Bellator is the perfect fit. We are thrilled to make Bellator the widest distributed MMA promotion in Latin America and Brazil, reaching more than 50 million homes from day one. We are also very excited to be able to work as partners with Bellator to produce large scale Bellator events throughout Latin America and to produce reality shows in key territories.
That was Carlos Martinez of Fox Sports Latin America basically repeating verbatim what has been the UFC's model for establishing an international presence.
What may be just over the horizon is a similar scramble to that of Coke and Pepsi 20 years ago. For anybody interested in the business end of MMA, this is something to watch closely.