Bellator Fighting Championships announced their launch today. In the April they will begin airing episodes on ESPN Deportes. The episodes will be two hours long and feature fights and fighter bio pieces. They plan on using tournament structures to crown champions. For any one wondering how an upstart MMA promotion managed to get on ESPN, you should know that most of their executives have strong ties to Disney/ESPN/ABC. This is basically ESPN's attempt at running an MMA promotion. That's all fine and good if they wanna jump into the water. To me it is a good thing to have competition in Mixed Martial Arts. I wish Bellator all the luck in the world, but I think their concept is flawed and won't work.
First, it's gonna be on ESPN Deportes. Most people do not even get this channel. I do not see too many MMA fans adding it just to see a show in Spanish (presumably). The language thing is not the major thing here, either. Even if they did air it in English, I still do not see enough fans getting the channel for it to matter. It also airs on Saturday nights, which means 1-2 nights a month they will face competition with UFC PPVs and other events. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Another problem is their tournament concept. I love MMA tournaments when they are done in a single night. Bellator plans on holding them over a period of three months. What happens if a couple upsets happen right off the bat? You're stuck promoting fights between guys most fans do not know. EliteXC and CBS found out this summer what happens when you broadcast a fight card without any name recognition.
The last problem I foresee is the amount of money they plan to give to the fighters - 1st round winners receive $25,000, 2nd round winners get $50,000, and the finals winner receives $275,000. Multiple that out over the four weight class tournaments and they'll be paying out $1.9 million to the winners. Way too much money to be paying out, especially with the economy in the crapper.
Good luck, Bellator. You're gonna need it.