Bellator Fighting Championships have done a great job of delivering a unique flavor of mixed martial arts to fighting fans. Frequently putting on events on non-premium television channels and showcasing the old school tournament format has set them apart.
Their promotional model gives them the leverage to offer an alternative for fight fans who may want to see something more than the typical UFC event.
That is not to knock the most successful MMA promotion in the history of the sport, only to say alternatives are not a bad thing. Variety can have a strong influence on the sport and its fans. It is no secret that the variety in the MMA world just took a turn for the worst as it was announced that Zuffa, UFC parent company, purchased Strikeforce.
While the Strikeforce brand will remain in tact for the time being, many wonder if it is only a matter of time before a UFC/WEC type merger is on the horizon. Or at the very least an absorption of top-tier talent in an effort to unify titles and consolidate contenders.
No matter what happens, all those marbles are in the UFC basket and they will do with them as they please.
Essentially, the only viable competition that organization has in this sport is the Bellator brand. And while Bellator may have a high quality, compelling, and extremely entertaining tournament format, they aren’t posing any direct threats to the UFC and their MMA empire.
Yet they still provide that alternative none the less. What strikes some as curious though, is the fact that Bellator's move to MTV2 for their most recent season has come together with a repetitive Saturday night schedule.
The time slot and network are great but the weekly scheduling will bring Bellator head to head with the UFC on a regular basis and at the very least once a month. For a promotion that does not operate year round it may prove difficult to drag the attention of fight fans away from that which has dominated this sport for so long, The UFC.
As of Saturday March 26, Bellator will have put on four events in season four. Two of those events will have been eclipsed by UFC events. One of which was the uber-hyped UFC 128 Rua vs Jones, and the other is the free UFC Fight Night on Spike TV.
It is safe to say that the media coverage for the two carried a 20-1 ratio of coverage towards the UFC if that. No one was talking about Bellator last week, and no one is talking about it this week—not at the media level anyway. That is alarming to say the least.
The UFC tunnel vision runs rampant sometimes and that is truly a shame. Again, not that the UFC does not warrant the attention, more so than to say Bellator deserves its day in the sun for sure. It is hard to get that when your putting on a show in the shadow of the UFC LHW Championship.
No matter how great of a promotion Bellator is, that is tough competition for any organization. To provide an alternative to the UFC is one thing, to go head to head with it is quite another.
Someone has to wonder when the powers that be were sitting in a board room or on a conference call and deciding the scheduling of this new tournament season on MTV2, what was their thought process? Was there not a Friday or Sunday night slot open?
They used to run on Thursdays, anything seems better than squaring off with the UFC.
The MMA world needs Bellator. They set a tone of purity and perpetuate the truest form of competition this sport has ever known. The tournament is ground zero for MMA. Some of the greatest names ever uttered as MMA champions were forged in tournament brackets.
It just strikes some as alarming that the risk has been run for the sport watching Bellator permanently forced behind the shadow of the UFC. Hopefully for the Bellator promotion, the weekly free events are enough to keep fans coming back. Even when the big boys stoke up the fires on their hype trains to crush Bellator events with their high profile fight cards.
In the end, Bellator has leverage in the sense that their shows are free and again they do provide a very compelling format as fans watch their favorite fighters rise to the top of a hard fought tournament pyramid.
They will not suffocate by any means. The show has a lot to offer and fans are taking note. But there will be that eclipse at least once a month, if not more in some cases, where the UFC steals the show. Surely the staff at Bellator planned for that and is prepared and confident to tackle that issue.
Hopefully the folks over there have a great run of success, regardless of their place on the MMA promotional totem pole. They have made a great run at it so far, and there are a lot of MMA fans pulling for them to become long standing pillars in this community.
But Bellator, let's go ahead and consider another day of the week when we start the planning for season five, mmmkay?
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.