Monday, June 22, 2009

Bellator's Solid First Season

-Bellator will have live English language broadcasts for Season 2, which kicks off in the fall. In many ways, their debut season without live English television was a blessing. They were able to build without expectations. Fans tuned in to see the highlight knockouts and submissions, but they weren't pouring over every minute of the broadcasts with a critical eye. When Season 2 begins, Bellator will have the experience of twelve shows to draw on and an ever growing list of exciting fighters.

-I can't say I'm a huge fan of the tournament structure as a foundation for an MMA organization. As a viewer, there are certain fights I want to see and I don't feel like waiting around for a tournament to shake out for them to happen. For fighters, though, the tournament structure is very enticing. Eddie Alvarez fought three times in a little over two months. He took home $175,000 in reported pay for his three victories. It's not only tournament winners who thrive financially. Since Bellator puts on one show a week, there are more opportunities for all their fighters to compete. In other promotions, fights are stretched out over months. Three fights in a year is considered a lot. Bellator turned this notion on its head. I'll guarantee we see some bigger names make their way to Bellator for the increased fighting opportunities.

-Going along with that thought, it'll be interesting to see how aggressive Bellator is with free agents. Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard (MW Winner) are legit top level fighters. They won their tournaments and need opponents during Season 2. Apparently, they plan on holding more tournaments and the winners will face the champions from Season 1. A nice idea on paper, but you better fill out the Season 2 tournaments with more well-known commodities, if you expect to sell the Season 1 Champs vs Season 2 Champs as a PPV event (see Sherdog link in final point for more info on their PPV plan).

-Overall, a solid start. Bellator managed to get fans interested despite their abundance of unknown fighters. Moving forward, Bellator needs to prove their economics work. I'm a little dubious about how they intend to make money. A broadcast deal with one of ESPN's English stations would go a long way to convincing me. According to Sherdog, they might not land on ESPN or ESPN2, though. It might not even be a channel within the ABC/ESPN family. They also plan on doing PPV events, which seems premature to me. Alvarez is their biggest draw and I'd say 50% of the mainstream MMA audience doesn't have any idea who he is. That's a bad sign when you're talking PPV buy rates and such.

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