After seven successful years televising the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Spike TV will continue as a mixed martial arts staple, as it will begin broadcasting fights with the tournament-format promotion, Bellator Fighting Championship.
Though Bjorn Rebney’s MMA company won’t air events until 2013, Spike TV has already started featuring fights on their Web site.
As Zuffa, LLC, UFC’s parent company, recently announced in August their plans to move to Fox Sports Media starting next year, Spike’s parent company, Viacom, comprehending the success of MMA programming, quickly purchased a majority stake in Bellator.
Though Spike has the rights to air UFC’s extensive back catalog of fights through 2012, the television company felt displaying such shows is insufficient.
In an interview on SportsIllustrated.com by Loretta Hunt, Spike TV’s president, Kevin Kay, is extremely excited about airing live, tournament-style, MMA events:
“We really liked Bellator. We liked (Bellator CEO) Bjorn (Rebney) and loved the talent development people, (matchmaker) Sam Caplan particularly and we loved the tournament format,” declares Kay.
“One of the things we've seen with the UFC over time is that the library tends to wear down (in terms of ratings). What continues to work are live fights. The tournaments give us live fights every week.”
Throughout the seven-year partnership, one of the most successful shows was The Ultimate Fighter, a reality program that housed up-and-coming fighters, with an opportunity to earn a lucrative contract with the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion.
Though Spike’s and Bellator’s pairing is in its infancy, a new, reality-based MMA show is in the works, unlike The Ultimate Fighter.
“One thing we won’t do is duplicate The Ultimate Fighter. It’s a great franchise and it’s going to go on to another network,” states Kevin. “There’s different kinds of reality ideas that we’re starting to kick around. We’re hearing lots of good ideas for reality programming around Bellator. But it won’t be 16 guys in a house. We’re not doing that show over again.”
With over a year to prepare and create new MMA TV shows and events, Spike TV’s president is looking forward in building Bellator’s fighters into stars and increasing their popularity.
“I think we’re really good at marketing and promoting,” proclaims Kay. “That’s the value we brought to the UFC and the value we’ll bring to Bellator.”
Though one may consider the break-up of Spike and UFC to be bittersweet, the TV head feels the time spent was an invaluable experience.
“I sat on the sidelines watching the guys that do it best in the world—(UFC owners) Dana, Lorenzo and Frank (Fertitta)—and soak up every experience,” discusses Kevin. “We paid a lot, but I learned a lot and hopefully we can bring all of that learning from myself and my team, and bring it to the party for Bellator.”
Bellator’s event highlights and previews are viewable at Spike.com.
Roland Riso is a contributing writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained from SI.com (link). Check out more of his work at MMAIdiot.com.