Before this year started, Bellator was considered an upstart contender trying to squeeze in between the UFC and Strikeforce. By the time it ends it will be the only American competition the UFC has.
Bellator had a stroke of luck this year when the UFC shockingly bought Strikeforce and essentially wiped out their other competitor. This left Bellator as the second and only option for fighters who wanted to remain on TV.
Then Spike TV finally had their contract with the UFC run out and started televising fights on their website from Bellator events that don't make it onto MTV2.
All in all the company might have found a niche as the second best mixed martial arts organization when all is said and done.
However, they will never challenge the UFC the way Strikeforce could.
People love stories.
If you can tell a fan why two men are fighting and why the should care, it will sell a pay-per-view. It's why fights that have nothing to do with titles but have interesting characters do so well.
And it's why Bellator's format will never catch on. They don't pull interesting match ups together. They merely get eight decent fighters together and throw them into matches until they end up with a winner who will challenge their champion.
Who is Cole Konrad?
Who is Ben Asrken?
These are the champions who won their respective tournaments but we don't know who they are anymore than we did before they even joined Bellator.
This is a problem.
If I don't know why Askren is nicknamed "Funky" or why Cole Konrad is a threat to any heavyweight in any company I won't feel compelled to watch.
It'll just be a bunch of MMA matches with names thrown in at random and it won't build a fan base for a fighter or company.
Bellator's tournament format has another drawback: It consists of three or four weight classes at the most.
This isn't a problem until you realize that Bellator has seven weight classes and seven champions in those weight classes.
Yet they only showcase several weight classes at a time. This means that they don't highlight several champions and contenders that they have in their roster at any given time.
For a promotion that tries to trumpet that it has some of the best fighters in the world, this is a setback.
If fans can't routinely see your fighters from every single weight class then how will they know how good they are and build a connection with certain fighters?
Bellator does tournaments with different weight classes.
This means that some of their champions have down time in between fighting the victors of said tournaments. There champions usually spend this time doing one of two things.
1) Taking fights in other organizations.
2) Taking interim fights within Bellator in non-title fights.
Both of these solutions are flawed. If a fighter loses outside of Bellator, the promotion has no claim to the fighter who beat them and none of the video to show their audience the fight. They don't make any money from a win but they lose some from a loss.
And the interim fights might be worse. What if the fighter beats the champ? Then you have a champion who wasn't even able to beat a fighter who couldn't be considered a top contender. And your audience was tuning in while it happened.
Nothing is worse than demeaning your own belt. And that is exactly what Bellator is going to do with theirs one day if they keep letting their fighters do things like those mentioned above.
Whenever a fighter becomes successful he usually wants to be compensated for his abilities. It's understandable and is the nature of sports in general.
The better you are, the better you're paid.
It's a simple process that every fan understand and accepts.
If a fighter wants to make the most money possible he has only one option: Go to the UFC.
No matter how much Bellator tries to compete with the UFC, they will never be able to buy the best talent.
Whenever a talent becomes big enough, the UFC has always snatched them up by honest negotiation or tricky deception.
No matter how far Bellator gets their not going to change this.
UFC just signed a deal with Fox. They will end up on network television four times a year and FX whenever they show a fight night or broadcast their Ultimate Fighter show.
Bellator is on MTV2.
This isn't a hard comparison. Bellator is on a much more minor channel and they don't get broadcast or hyped as much as the UFC ever has.
Until Bellator can match the UFC in television exposure when their fights air, they are always going to play second fiddle.
Most people aren't MMA fans. They're UFC fans.
This means that anybody who mentions Bellator will most likely get blank stares.
It's like search engines on the Internet: Microsoft might try to make Bing mean something, but it won't work. That is because most people say that they're going to "google" something, not use a search engine.
When something like the UFC or Google becomes synonymous with the thing it represents, then there isn't much of a chance of competing with it.
Zuffa purchased the UFC back in 2001. They almost lost everything when they took on the company and almost went bankrupt at least half a dozen times. Yet they kept going, and by being on the ground floor when MMA took off, they became the largest promotion in the world.
Strikeforce worked as an opponent because they were a kickboxing company that started in 1985 and eventually became an MMA promotion in 2006. They might not have been on the ground floor but they had a name that was connected to combat sports in some way.
Bellator came into existence in 2008. They came in by the time the MMA boom was in full affect and growing. They are essentially riding the UFC's coattails and trying to become the next big company.
The problem is that if MMA fans want to see great fights they already have a company they go to. They don't need to see if Bellator is going to be any good. They already have the UFC.
Bellator has been handed a golden opportunity now that Strikeforce has been bought by the UFC. Unfortunately, it's tarnished beyond repair.
Am I right?
Am I wrong?
Let me know what you think.
And as always, thanks for reading.