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Viacom’s Bellator problem; triumph or turmoil for UFC on Fox Sports 1?

By Zach Arnold | August 14, 2013

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“I know a lot of fans are hating on this fight (with Tito) but when the fight actually happens, they’re going to feel like the dumbest people because I know for a fact that Tito’s going to bring it. I know he is. … Listen, it don’t bother me. I just block them (on Twitter) and I laugh. These guys are idiots. They’re sheep. You know what I’m saying? They’re sheep. What I mean by sheep is they don’t think for themselves. THey’re sheep. They’re MMA sheep.”Rampage Jackson in interview with

It’s been a rough go of things for Bellator lately. They need a successful PPV showing on November 2nd. Running a show like this during the college football season is challenging. At least they’ll have Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler as the semi-main event fight. However, Bellator is ending women’s MMA and releasing their female fighters from existing contracts. And, on top of everything, Bellator’s allegedly onerous fighter contracts just got one more contractual clause called the “champion replacement clause” and the formula is as confusing as hell to comprehend. This is one of those moments where Rob Maysey of MMAFA would love to see the Ali Act applied to MMA.

As if that isn’t enough, Fight Master ratings are collapsing faster than a Florida sinkhole and Spike TV’s only prescription for saving the show’s ratings is to move the final airings to Thursday nights at 11 PM in hopes of getting a strong lead-in from TNA pro-wrestling. Before this news broke, I wrote a column about the marriage between TNA & Bellator getting stronger because Spike/Viacom thinks that the wrestling tie-in is the only way to save their investment in Bellator. It’s a great twist of irony — Bellator’s failures are worse than TNA’s failures, therefore TNA’s failures will continue to be financially rewarded (Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff must be delighted) because Viacom sees TNA as Bellator’s lifeline. I don’t know how we got to this point but we have. Read the linked article for more about the absurdity of the entire situation on behalf of all parties involved.

Will UFC’s slate of August fight cards prove to be feast or famine?

Want to know one great reason why UFC is considered valuable in the world of Fox Sports?

I guess the Hooters pageants with Kenny Florian & Chael Sonnen as hosts aren’t exactly attracting a lot of eyeballs?

UFC’s event this weekend in Boston with Chael Sonnen (3-to-2 favorite over Mauricio Shogun) will apparently have 11,000 fans in the building. The only question is how many tickets will be sold versus comped. On paper, sounds like a relatively decent gate. However, comments made by Dana White recently about his frustrations of putting on a UFC show in Boston given the Massachusetts commission wanting Social Security Numbers for foreign fighters and the whole licensing issue with Sonnen cane across as … curious. The Culinary Union and other political groups asked for the commission to not license Sonnen but the commission did anyways and wouldn’t let the groups speak publicly at a hearing.

While the letter CU sent to the commission was well-written in citing case law, the reality is that Sonnen was going to get licensed no matter how many letter-writing campaigns there were. So, given the solid Boston gate, why would UFC care so much about a letter-writing campaign? Because the tactics of the Union are working to a degree — maybe not so much in terms of a direct impact but most certainly in terms of getting under the skin of the Fertitta Empire. They hate anyone that puts up a fight or challenges them, no matter how big or small you are.

Don’t believe me? Tim Marchman at Deadspin posted the MMA media article of articles this week regarding 8 things you shouldn’t do to piss off the UFC if you’re a writer.

Don’t talk about UFC financials or fighter pay. Don’t break news without two sources. Don’t report anything from fight agents/managers. Don’t speak on behalf of a fighter. Don’t mention Dana White’s mother. Don’t write anything negative about Zuffa unless you use the word ‘opinion.’ You can’t be “too negative.” And, finally, every writer is being watched like a hawk. No wonder nobody ever writes about a Fertitta corporate board member being a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s steroids & drug testing panel.

What’s definitely legitimate to write articles on is the upcoming challenges that Fox Sports will have in launching the FS1 & FS2 channels.

Dana says that he’s not worried about Fox Sports getting a deal with the major satellite/cable providers done in time for Saturday’s launch. He may find out that not everybody is going to have a chance to watch the Boston fight. Fox Sports needs the UFC right now, which is why the spin from Los Angeles about UFC’s ratings has been so rosy.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “Viacom’s Bellator problem; triumph or turmoil for UFC on Fox Sports 1?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:


    1) Does the entire future of Bellator hang on exactly one PPV? I think it does. And it is on a night that not only has College Football (as Zach pointed out)… But also a night that typically has Halloween parties.

    2) TNA at least can carry a night. Bellator cannot. Everything Bellator has put on without TNA next to it has completely failed.

    3) I don’t watch that much Bellator anyways, but I do try to watch it for their Top 4 or 5 fighters. With the majority of their talent likely being booked for the PPV, I have little reason to watch their weekly show moving forward.


    1) It will be interesting to see how many homes FOX Sports 1 is in by Saturday. A lot of deals could be made last minute. Long term, as long as it is in 75 Million homes or more, the UFC should be fine. The closer to 90 Million the better. The ratings need to get closer to 1 Million within a month or so to really be positive. Keep in mind that this is a long-term business project for FOX. FX was not a success overnight. It took them years to get the right programming and build an audience.

    2) While us hardcore fans have not be overly impressed by the ratings, it is obvious that FOX has been. It must be the key demographic numbers they are pulling in for live sports. They continue to increase the number of UFC shows on their channels. Personally, I think it is fantastic. I would love to see it eventually increase to 40 weekly shows and then 10 or so “BIG” cards a year.

    And FOX must be paying solid money for these cards because they are serious upgrades compared to what we saw for FX & FUEL TV Cards. The Top 3 cards for each of the next few shows are:

    FN 26: Rua/Sonnen, Overeem/Browne, & Faber/Alcantara.
    FN 27: Condit/Kampmann, Cerrone/Dos Anjos, & Gastelum/Melancon (Supposed to be McMann/Kaufaman).
    FN 28: Bader/Teixeira, Okami/Souza, Benevidez/Formiga
    FN 29: Maia/Shields, Kim/Silva, & ???
    FN 30: Bisping/Munoz, ???

    The Top 2 fights on the first 4 cards are all PPV Main Card worthy fights. If this is the future of the UFC, I like it.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    Watch this interview with Eddie Alvarez. The two things that struck me was:

    1. Why is a girl doing the interview.

    2. Eddie does not sound happy for a man who just ended a contract dispute.

    Good bye to Bellator.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    And now based on links mmalogic has posted… FOX Sports 1 will be available in 90 Million Homes on Saturday. Already a huge success. Now lets see what the ratings will be.

    Anything under 500,000 is a failure. 500 to 750 is a disappointment. 750 to 1 Million is a success. Over 1 Million is a home run.

  4. david m says:

    I have no idea if I have Fox Sports 1, and if I don’t, I won’t lose any sleep over it. It is a solid card, but I am not going to spend my Saturday night searching to watch some mma. The big problem for the UFC is that to get a big group of people to go to a bar or to buy a ppv at home requires some buzz. I remember Rampage v Liddell in the UFC–I heard non-mma fans talking about the fight and how excited they were to see it. Shogun has no charisma and is a shell of the fighter he once was. Chael has tons of charisma but I haven’t really seen him anywhere for public consumption. Why isn’t there a road to the fight show? Why isn’t Chael being interviewed on other Fox properties saying outlandish things about what he will do to Shogun? None of my casual mma friends have expressed even the foggiest interest in seeing the fight.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The likely long term goal of the UFC isn’t to get “buzz” for each show. It is to get a devoted Wednesday Audience that turns to FOX Sports 1 every week to watch a live UFC Show. And those viewers can then be advertised to to purchase PPV’s and watch the FOX Shows.

      This is just a special card for the start of a new channel.

      And if you had SPEED, you have FOX Sports 1. Probably on the same channel.

    • Jason Harris says:

      “It is a solid card, but I am not going to spend my Saturday night searching to watch some mma.”

      We can only imagine the hardship of having to flip through several different channels trying to find UFC. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

      Let’s start a fundraiser for david m’s hard life

      • david m says:

        haha, fair enough. I wasn’t trying to sound like a douche; I meant that if I don’t have Fox Sports, I am not going to spend my night searching for someone who has it.

        That being said, I just read that my provider just signed up with Fox Sports 1, so I will likely watch now, because Chael Sonnen is the most entertaining man in mma, and there are some good undercard fights too.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    Will Bellator not learn from history and go with the THREE TITLE FIGHTS ON ONE CARD???

    They already have Alvarez/Chandler & Newton/Lawal. I could easily see them adding one more….

    Let’s look at the brief horrible history of putting 3 title fights onto one major card…

    UFC 33 – Menne vs. Castillo for Middleweight Title. Pulver vs. Hallman for Lightweight Title. Ortiz vs. Matuyshenko for Light Heavyweight Title. All 5 fights on the card go the distance and many cable companies cut out before Ortiz/Matyushenko is even finished. The event was the first UFC back onto cable for most providers. It was a disaster that set them really far back until UFC 40 (Ortiz/Shamrock).

    Strikeforce on CBS – Mousasi vs. Lawal for the Light Heavyweight Title. Melendez vs. Aoki for the Lightweight Title. And Shields vs. Henderson for the Middleweight Title. All 3 fights go the distance. After the last fight, there is a brawl in the cage. Strikeforce is never invited back to CBS instead of getting a better, long term deal.

    The scary thing is…. Both the UFC & Strikeforce cards had the same 3 divisional titles for there cards…. LHW, MW, & LW.

    So far Bellator has announced a LHW & LW Title Fight. If Alexander Shlemenko defends the title on the PPV…. It will be a little bit of poetry…

    This story needs to be covered by larger MMA news websites. Anybody is welcome to steal this idea for a story…

  6. Jason Harris says:

    Why are you treating the Culinary Union antagonizing UFC over something completely unrelated to UFC as anything but a bad thing?

    “They hate anyone that puts up a fight!”

    They’re being politically spurned by a CULINARY UNION due to a labor dispute at a Casino, which has nothing to do with the UFC. It’s just an easy way for the union to get press. Are you really going to try to spin that as UFC just hates opposition?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      He’s got about 11,000 paid for Boston on Saturday, it’s the show to launch Fox Sports 1 as a channel, and yet he can’t stop bitching all week long about the Culinary Union, Massachusetts wanting SSNs for foreign fighters, and now politicians.

      The way he is acting seems different than what we know on the surface, so something clearly is bothering management in a big way. I truly think they didn’t expect the CU to be mounting any sort of fight anywhere against them — not New York, let alone other states. On many fronts, CU hasn’t accomplished much here. However, what’s got UFC furious is not the success rate of CU’s campaign but the fact that CU is challenging them aggressively in the first place. They don’t like being challenged. (The Deadspin article with leaked e-mail proves this.)

    • RST says:

      Zuffa is definitely not without their faults.
      But they’re transgressions generally seem to be within the jurisdiction of their own product.
      Annoying, but within their rights as owners of that product.

      I agree that in the situation with the CU, the CU is the aggressor and so far out of line that its surreal.
      I dont even like zuffa half the time but its infuriating to see anybody trying to pull the trash the CU does.

      (Ergo: My similar disdain for anything related to new york.)

  7. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    Someone, “Malki Kawa” was complaining “You’re about to do your first pay-per-view with stars the UFC built up.”

    Actually both Ortiz and Jackson were not built up by Zuffa ufc into stars. Tito was already a star with seg ufc, and Quinton a Pride star.

    It will be interesting to see tito fighting outside the UFC for once.

  8. RST says:

    It must be a comforting thing to be one of the dumbest people.

    You’re always sure that its actually everyone else and there is nothing that could ever explain to you otherwise.

  9. david m says:

    Nobody in mma has ever snatched victory from the jaws of defeat more times than Overeem.

  10. Alien says:

    I remember two years ago, Bjorn Rebney said in an interview with Sherdog Radio that he doesn’t want to sign UFC leftovers into his organization. That he made an exception for guys like Ben Saunders because he felt that the UFC was too quick to release Ben after two losses against tough opponents. He felt that Ben wasn’t given a proper opportunity in the Octagon. And now they recently brought in War Machine (he didn’t wash out of the UFC though. He had a loss but we know the real reason why he was cut). But what really matters is the public perception. And if they even recognize Ben Saunders and War Machine from The Ultimate Fighter on Bellator, they’re probably going to be thinking “oh, I remember those guys. What are they doing in Bellator instead of the UFC? I guess they must have lost a step.”

    But now they go ahead and sign Rampage Jackson, who can still “go” but is widely perceived to be a PRIDE/UFC veteran who is past his best years and has seen the sport pass him by. And they top it off by signing Tito Ortiz! Two UFC has-beens going at it. And because Rampage and Tito have no interest in fighting in a tournament every four weeks or so, there aren’t going to be any titles on the line!

    Honestly Bellator only has two options here: be the minor leagues or be the alternative. The tournament format and the weekly basic/semi-basic cable TV on Spike is what makes Bellator the alternative. It makes them different. They put on all their best fights on Spike TV, which is free if you get the appropriate cable package. You don’t have to buy PPVs like you do with the UFC to see their best fights. And now they want to mess with that formula? Come on now. That was the ONE thing that Bellator had going for it over the UFC. Being able to watch quality fights for free every week. And tournaments! (I don’t know about you but I love tournaments. Maybe it’s just me).

    But with Bellator moving towards PPV and now doing superfights that detract from the tournament, they’re basically trying to copy the UFC and coming off as very minor league.


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