By Zach Arnold | October 25, 2013
@ryanbiankowski there is NO value. They sold 12 tickets for this fight. This was the best thing that could have happened to them
— Dana White (@danawhite) October 25, 2013
When news broke on Friday that Tito Ortiz had a neck injury and was pulled off the Bellator November 2nd PPV in Long Beach, you knew Dana White was going to throw a party on social media. You also knew that the chants from UFC fans of death to Bellator would start. Bad contracts, legal fights with Eddie Alvarez, a tumultuous free agency situation with Ben Askren. Like a house of cards, Viacom’s attempt to stay in MMA on the cheap is proving to be worth a whole lot of trouble.
It’s been a bad week for California State Athletic Commission boss Andy Foster. First, the attempt to create a commission-controlled association for officials with Big John McCarthy was revealed. Second, a connecting-the-dots article on our site about the current violent mismatches being rubber stamped by the Sacramento front office was published. And now, say bye bye to the Bellator PPV next week.
Last August, Bellator had Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson stare down at their event in Albuquerue, New Mexico. Less than three months later at the same venue, Bjorn Rebney delivered the news that Bellator’s PPV would be converted into a three-hour Spike TV special with Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus & Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez getting top billing. Part of the settlement between Alvarez and Bellator was the idea that his fight would be on PPV. Now it’s not. That’s a whole another can of worms.
In retrospect, it’s amazing to look back at how much faith Viacom put into Tito vs. Rampage. They spent over a month pushing the fight by integrating the two fighters into TNA storylines. Tito then turned heel on Rampage and both men disappeared to training camps. Rampage taped a reality show in which he slacked off from training and wasn’t taking the fight seriously. Way to promote the fight. Months of advertising was launched. Even during Friday night’s Bellator event from New Mexico, there were still Rampage/Tito ads all over the place.
So, next Saturday night, we have a 3-hour Bellator block on Spike TV. Here is how the card looks:
- Bellator Lightweight title match: Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez
- Bellator Featherweight title match: Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus
- Light Heavyweights: King Mo vs. Emanuel Newton
- Heavyweights: Cheick Kongo vs. Vinicius Queiroz
- Middleweights: Joe Riggs vs. Mike Bronzoulis
- Lightweights: Terry Etim vs. Patrick Cenoble
- Featherweights: Mike Richman vs. Akop Stepanyan
- Welterweights: Karo Parisyan vs. Cristiano Souza
As for Rampage Jackson, he told Inside MMA that he wanted his fight still on PPV and that he would approve of Kimbo Slice, Houston Alexander, Tyrone Spong, or Chuck Liddell as opponents.
“My heart goes out to Tito. At the end of the day I can’t be selfish and be upset. Injuries. Damn things happen all the time. … Throw another opponent at me and still keep the PPV. I just wanted to show the world and the fans that still support me that I’m back.”
Dave Meltzer has a breakdown of what happened on Bellator’s hastily-arranged Friday conference call.
For Andy Foster and the California State Athletic Commission, they just lost an automatic $25,000 PPV tax check. CSAC will get a TV tax check but it may be smaller than expected. John Morgan of MMA Junkie claimed that 1,750 tickets were sold and that another 2,000 tickets were given out to fighters to go sell. Yes, a Viacom-owned MMA property reportedly used an independent promoter gimmick of having fighters sell ticket blocks. The word going around in optimistic Sacramento circles was that they were told that 4,000 tickets had been sold for Long Beach and that 8,000 tickets would be dispersed come show time. Instead, there’s going to be a whole lot of papering going on with the freebies available the day of the show. Fans probably won’t need to pay for a ticket if they show up near the building (or have connections) the day of the show. This will certainly mean a smaller tax haul for the commission from the live gate revenue than first expected.
Bellator is now based in California. This was supposed to be one of the crown jewels for Andy Foster. Bellator running PPVs and big events in the state. So far, the TV tax revenue from Bellator events has been minimal because Spike is only budgeting $50,000 to $60,000 per event, which translates into a $2,000-$3,000 TV tax check to the commission. Viacom is making money on Bellator through advertising because they aren’t spending a whole lot of money on shows. However, as I wrote recently on Fightline, there was a reason Viacom wanted Bellator to make the gamble and hit PPV. They’re not into small ball. They want to see growth. They want higher cash flow. Now the Long Beach PPV is canceled — and that’s probably a good thing given how tough of a sell it was going to be. Live to fight another day.
In the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of lessons for Viacom/Spike TV/Bellator to take away from the failed Long Beach PPV experiment-turned-dry-run. The question is whether or not they will learn from those mistakes when they attempt to get on PPV in 2014.