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What direction is Bellator heading into 2014?

By Zach Arnold | November 3, 2013

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I thought Saturday night’s show would give us some answers. Some answers, but just as many questions now.

The Long Beach crowd was small & less enthusiastic than the Irvine crowd last January. Bellator makes Southern California their home and yet it doesn’t across on television that So. Cal is home base. Not that rabid hardcore following. Feels more like a passing following. This Long Beach crowd seemed like they came to watch a show as opposed to watching the Chandler/Alvarez fight. The pops both men got was slightly above the reactions the other fighters on the card received but not really substantial at all.

Going into the show, the expectation was 8,000 tickets sold for Rampage Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz. Just stating what was said behind the scenes. A month ago, news broke that 4,000 tickets were sold. When MMA Junkie broke news that only 1,800 of those tickets were actually sold and another 2,200 were given to fighters to contractually sell, then the bubble popped and there was a lot of second-guessing.

Then Tito backed out of his fight with Rampage. And suddenly there wasn’t going to be 8,000 fans in Long Beach. Not sure what the crowd size was on Saturday, but 4,000 a best case scenario. What it means is simple. Bellator is not ready for PPV. They still remain a sold show proposition first and foremost. Until they can change the dynamic and prove they are a drawing powerhouse as a non-sold show entity, then it’s difficult to see the path forward.

The TV opener with Mike Richman was a nice scrap.

Then the show dragged — and dragged hard. Joe Riggs won Bellator’s reality TV show.

Daniel Strauss decisioned Pat Curran and killed the crowd in the process. Strauss is the kind of guy that you have a grudging respect for but you’re not willing to pay to see his fights. That’s a problem.

Emanuel Newton put an end to the King Mo experiment by defeating him (again) via decision. Dreadful showing by Mo. Even Roy Nelson was getting on Mo’s ass in the corner. Mo really doesn’t have much of a defensive posture at all and it’s easy to tag him. I noticed that when you hit him, no matter where on his body, that he’ll immediately drop his hands and leave himself wide open to get blasted. It’s the King Hippo syndrome from Punchout.

Spike has decided to make November the month of Rampage. They’re promoting a fight between Rampage & Joey Beltran. Wait until Viacom hears about the legal trouble Rampage is in with Juanito Ibarra.

R1 & R2 – Chandler. R3 – Alvarez. R4 – Chandler. He absolutely pummeled Alvarez from top position. R5 – Alvarez. Chandler went for a choke, Alvarez got back on his feet, both guys still had some pop on their strikes. Alvarez landed lots of strikes against the cage and went for the choke, Chandler got on top with 30 seconds. Bloody mat.

Michael Chandler was tired and bleeding in round three. His left eye was a mess. By the time round five started, it was 12:33 AM. The West Coasters got a taste of what the East Coasters have to put up with regarding the late show times. The live crowd showed some life (finally) after the end of round five.

R2 was the swing round… but not apparently to the California judges. Scores: Mike Beltran (48-47 Chandler), Steven Davis (48-47 Alvarez), Derek Cleary (48-47 Alvarez). The fans were mixed about the decision and I agree with their sentiments. Look at the round-by-round score card here. Beltran got the right overall score but gave Chandler R3 when Alvarez won it and he gave R2 to Alvarez. Alvarez got R2 on all the cards. That gave Cleary his 48-47 score and the same with Davis.

What struck a chord with me about the main event was the Thursday preview special in which Eddie Alvarez said he was going to make Bjorn regret how he handled the contractual situation and that winning the fight would be the catalyst of that regret. He got the belt.

It’s a nice pitch and all but it’s like watching AJ Styles tell Dixie Carter that he’s going to “make her pay” and then the payoff is that he’s leaving the promotion, kind of like what Eddie Alvarez wants to do. Not exactly the the most inspiring message to send to the public about what the top fighters think of Bellator. Imagine if the casual fans knew what was going on with Ben Askren.

Other observations

And finally, since the show was in California, it was interesting to watch the various cast of characters working for the commission at the show. Some of the guys Andy Foster has brought on (you know who you are) are decent. Some of them are complete goofs, however. The LAPD/LASD influence is strong. Big John McCarthy worked the show and so did his son as a judge. My favorite character getting bookings in Southern California is a security guy named Louis Perry. He’s the imposing tall guy (w/ glasses) who got TV time after Mike Richman scored his KO. Perry’s claim to fame is that he worked for free for the infamous Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s doctor, so that he could get a marketing rub for his private security business. I kid you not. Not only that, Perry told the press that he felt Murray was a good guy caught in a bad situation and being tugged apart by different camps who were trying to use the guy. Perry has been spotted in the past signing off fighter handwraps and telling them to go to his web site.

Joe Ulrey, the veteran athletic inspector, always has an uncanny knack of finding the camera (and vice versa).

I had a veteran athletic inspector point out to me a habit that referee Jason Herzog displays when he’s watching two guys strike. The inspector noted that Herzog is always looking to his left in striking exchanges and never to his right.

What stands out to me about California shows now is that the style of regulation for the MMA events is more focused than the boxing events. The boxing shows may be regulated by Andy’s right hand man, Mark Relyea, but it’s the wild west with bad judges and mismatches compared to the MMA side of the equation. This is really the first time in modern combat sports history that we’ve seen a “major” commission be largely an MMA-first operation. The boxing side leaves a whole lot to be desired.

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 35 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

35 Responses to “What direction is Bellator heading into 2014?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) Unless some highly paid executive still has an ax to grind with the UFC, Bellator should be gone in 2014. They had zero momentum and built no stars this entire year.

    2) Pat Curran disappointed me. I thought he was a Top 5 quality Featherweight, and last night he proved he certainly was not. He just doesn’t have the killer instinct to be Top 5.

    3) I have never been impressed with King Mo, and last night is hopefully the end of people hyping him up.

    4) Eddie Alvarez impressed me, despite getting taken down by Chandler (I missed the 5th round). He showed a much more crisp fighting style then he did in the past. I have said that he would get wrecked in the UFC because of his wide open style. Last night, I have to take that statement back.

    5) Has Viacom learned NOTHING from the history of MMA? I can’t believe they are this dumb. First, they are trying to compete with the UFC, and history has shown us this is a direct path to failure. Then they put 3 title fights on one card, which has been a failure twice before. It slows the show down to much. I fell asleep before the main event. The show went so far past the scheduled time that even my 30 minutes of extra time didn’t catch the final round.

    As of right now….

    Fight Master has been failure.
    PPV has been a failure.
    Ratings have been a failure.
    Star Making has been a failure.

    SpikeTV didn’t even have a replay of last nights card. So I couldn’t even catch the ending of what was a very good fight for the first 4 rounds. That’s how bad Bellator is doing.

    Combine all of this with the fact that they treat their fighters horribly, and I want to see Bellator fail. Let the best 10 to 15 fighters go to the UFC. Let the next 10 to 15 fighters go to the WSOF. And then the rest should be back on AXS TV where they belong.

  2. dyno says:

    Spike tv last night on my tv guide listed the show as Chandler vs. Alverez 2.
    No description. No mention of Bellator anywhere in the guide.

    The best part for me last night was the visual of a disguested Bjorn who didn’t even put the belt on Eddie since he was so visually disgusted.

    Good for Eddie and I’d love to know how Bmma will compensate him forthe lost ppv revenue.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “Good for Eddie and I’d love to know how Bmma will compensate him forthe lost ppv revenue.”

      He didn’t lost any PPV revenue. When he settled with them out of court, he signed a completely different contract than the one Bellator ‘matched’. I suspect he gave up his PPV revenue in exchange for an increase in guaranteed pay and a shorter contract term. We know for a fact that he made $95K/$95K rather than the $75K/$75K that the UFC offered him. There are also rampant rumors that the contract was a one-fight deal with Bellator holding an option for a second fight should Alvarez win last night. After that, he is free and clear.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Which is funny because as of today, Bellator is in a much worse position then if they just let Eddie Alvarez go to the UFC.

        If they let him leave, they could still claim Michael Chandler is the better of the two fighters. And any wins Eddie got in the UFC shows that a “2nd Best” Bellator Lightweight could do good in the UFC.

        And besides, they already had Chandler locked up to a longer term deal, so he was not a flight risk. But Alvarez is one win away from bringing the belt onto UFC TV and throwing it in the trash (stole that idea from somebody on The UG).

        And they still haven’t stopped guys like Ben Askren from wanting to leave. They are just forced to sit out a long time in order to be completely free of Bellator.

        Rebney & Viacom really over thought the solution and put themselves in a worse place…

        • Steve4192 says:

          “Which is funny because as of today, Bellator is in a much worse position then if they just let Eddie Alvarez go to the UFC.”

          I disagree.

          Bellator, like all MMA promoters, is in the fight business and they got at least one outstanding fight out of the deal with a prospect of another looming on the horizon. Chandler losing is not that big of a deal, especially if he comes back and loses the rubber match. Randy Couture was plenty popular even after losing rematches to Vitor Belfort and Chuck Liddell. Fans don’t care about a loss here and there. They care about exciting fights, and Chandler will deliver those regardless of whether he is undefeated or not.

          The only real damage to Bellator in resigning Alvarez is they lose the propaganda value of having an ‘undefeated champion’. But that propaganda was pretty much worthless in the first place, as outside of a few internet-dwelling ‘hardcore’ fans who obsess over ‘promotion versus promotion’ nonsense, no one took that stuff seriously.

        • nottheface says:

          Yeah, this surprisingly turned into a huge win for Bellator. Eddie won a very close fight that was amazing. They now have something they haven’t had before – a fight people are interested in. Even the back story on his contractual problems just adds more interest.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You disagree that they are in a worse position? Um no.

          It’s not like they are going to get fans to pay for Alvarez/Chandler 3 on PPV. So there they won’t be making more money on it.

          And they are one fight away from losing another champion to another organization. A situation they actually put themselves in.

          And the only people interested in this fight are the hardcore fans. Bellator has no reach outside of them. So the fans who were going to watch anyways are the ones interested in it. And casual fan turned the channel an hour before that main event was even on.

        • edub says:

          They’ll do PPV. And most likely get 100k out of it for buys.

          Which won’t be a huge win, but it’ll be profitable.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Alvarez/Chandler already had an awesome fight before this card. And that fight was available for all to see on TV and online multiple times before this card.

          And based on that… They had a quiet weigh ins. They couldnt sell 4,000 tickets. And numbers were trending bad enough that they were taken off PPV once they became the main event.

          But their next fight will draw 100k? Whatever you are smoking must be strong.

        • edub says:

          Pretty much same trend at Faber-Barao. Some differences in personnel, storyline, and company, but the UFC name (and and the hardcore MMA audience) went for 230. Even after a lack of promotion.

          This trilogy will be promoted ad nausiem, and they’ll pack the main card with guys on the level of UFC 149.
          They’ll get at least 100k, and we can put a little wager on it when the time comes of you’d like.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          But none of the variable have changed. A good fight between the same two guys. The fight can be shown for free before hand.

          And one wasn’t good enough for PPV, but the next one will be? Come on. That is silly talk.

        • edub says:

          Silly talk after a 1.4 million viewer peak?

      • Chris says:

        that number is wrong, Eddie got 80/80 for his fight, Chandler is the one who got 95/95.

        But your point is correct, he took slightly more win/show money and maybe a bigger signing bonus and a shorter term contract to make up for lost PPV money.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    nottheface wrote:

    Yeah, this surprisingly turned into a huge win for Bellator. Eddie won a very close fight that was amazing. They now have something they haven’t had before – a fight people are interested in. Even the back story on his contractual problems just adds more interest.

    Not a huge win.

    The first fight was a battle and the fans who showed up in Long Beach didn’t react to either Chandler or Alvarez as a big time star. They came to see the show, not the guys in the (new) main event.

    I don’t see why the second fight will generate much interest for a PPV buy when the trilogy is completed. Round 5 of yesterday’s fight aired on both coasts at 12:30 AM. Most of the PPV buying audience for MMA is West Coast. East Coasters are used to staying up late to watch the Vegas shows. West Coasters are not used to it.

    Perhaps Viacom will be smart enough to show some repeat airings of the second fight on future Bellator broadcasts.

    Bellator would have been better letting Alvarez go rather than getting the second match with Chandler. Chandler won the first match. Let Alvarez go to UFC coming off a loss. Now, you have two judges in California who gave Alvarez a decision win when Chandler should have won. Alvarez has the title belt and has one fight left, which will obviously be against Chandler (again). If Alvarez wins, the Bellator belt gets vacated and Chandler will suffer two losses to a guy who is headed to the UFC. If Bellator had left Alvarez go, Chandler would be the champion still.

  4. nottheface says:

    Who cares if Chandler is undefeated with a win over Alvarez if no one is watching his fights? No one cares about any fight Bellator can put together except for this one. It’s the first time i can look at the SBN traffic stats and see any interest one of their shows. The fact that Eddie’s contract is apparently on the line even adds interest. Just like Strikeforce could sometime sell a fight by just promoting it using the mma media sites, Bellator has a chance to do the same with this.

    Can it sell ppvs? No, but they don’t have the ingrediants to sell a ppv anyways, so eveything is going to be a failure if you measure it that way. But they have a fight people are talking about, something they haven’t had before.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The fact that Alvarez/Chandler cost them $255k to put on…. And Viacom is giving Bellator less then $100k per show…. I would say the fact they can’t get viewers to PPV for their fight is a huge failure. These guys are not worth their price tags. The weigh-ins were quiet. The arena was empty. The fans didn’t even give them a big ovation when they came out. And they already had an awesome fight that has been available online for a while. They just aren’t stars. Outside of the little MMA bubble, people don’t care about them.

      A midnight fight after two boring 5 rounders isn’t going to change that, no matter how good the fight was.

      Just look at the reaction of Rebney after the fight. The wheels are coming off Bellator so badly he can’t even hide it in public anymore.

      • edub says:

        Rebney was smiling directly after the fight looking at Alvarez.

        The gif of him shaking his head lightly is hardly an inclination of him being unhappy with the winner.

        “A midnight fight after two boring 5 rounders isn’t going to change that, no matter how good the fight was.”

        Because it won’t be watched repeatedly by others in the next few months?

  5. The Predictable Johnny Rodz says:

    “Wait until Viacom hears about the legal trouble Rampage is in with Juanito Ibarra.”

    C’mon, really? You really think they entered into a contract with him without knowing about this? The Juanita lawsuit hasn’t stopped anyone from UFC to Hollywood to Reebok to Viacom from doing business with Rampage in the years and years since it was filed.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Recent developments in court pretty much are setting the stage for all these companies you are talking about to cut their checks to Juanito instead of Rampage. 🙂

      Rampage fighting “for free” is a Rampage that won’t be happy… and a moping Rampage is a handful to deal with. But that’s what happens when you keep running away from deposition requests and motions to compel document production.

  6. david m says:

    I just read on sherdog that Joe Riggs got paid 100k. I like Joe and have cheered for him ever since he got screwed at the weigh in against Hughes, but that is not a successful business model.

    The main event was amazing. God, I would watch those 2 fight 20 times. Luckily that was the only fight I saw after watching GGG beat the fuck out of Curtis Stevens.

    If 45 Huddle’s wet dream comes true and Bellator folds, I would watch literally any fight involving Chandler or Alvarez against any of the UFC guys.

    • duck says:

      He won the Fight Master reality show, which is why he was paid 100k.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I do want Bellator to fail, but that is not my MMA Wet Dream. My MMA Wet Dream…. And it changes sometimes…. Is the following:

      1) UFC has 2 big events per month. So only the best of the best in the UFC. It would require a reduction in roster.

      2) Feeder League has weekly show. There is no barrier from this league to the UFC. This feeder league is a combination of:

      a) UFC Rejects looking to get a second chance.
      b) Prospects

      Give me something like that and I would be very happy.

      • The Gaijin says:

        I want a league/org that has a good relationship with the UFC which would pay guys good money when they’re worth it, wouldn’t hold guys back from making a jump to the big show and be there to give prospects a shot at proving themselves and veterans a second chance to either reinvent themselves or make a run at the big leagues again. You know, something that Strikeforce could have been when Zuffa bought it out, but sadly wasn’t in the cards.

  7. edub says:

    I’ve been saying it for a while, but it was proven this weekend, there are three FW’s that would do a number to every 145er in the UFC. I don’t mean that they would absolutely win, but they would be competitive with any of them. Put Straus, Curran, and Friere against anybody from the UFC and you have a great fight. The only guys I’d pick to beat the three are Edgar, Aldo, and Mendes (and I still think they’d be great fights).

  8. Alan Conceicao says:

    I don’t give a shit about Bellator and basically never have. No one is going to watch their PPV regardless of what they put on it because they’re second rate. Rampage/Tito was, shockingly, the best option they were ever gonna have.

    The UFC doesn’t need a feeder league. With weekly dates they’d have more than enough space on cards to develop talent themselves if they’re willing to put their minds to doing that as a rule of thumb rather than the exception. Conor McGregor is a great example of what they could be doing with 2-3 guys in every weight class they have if they were willing to put their minds to it. But they don’t give a shit about running any market with any degree of regularity or consistency (other than the nebulous “Brazil” and Vegas), and they don’t care 1/4 as much about making stars as they do continuing to promote the brand first and foremost. But they don’t need a feeder promotion. For what, more MMA people won’t watch on TV that they’ll complain about “dilutes the product”? Or will it be different because it will be easier to differentiate what matters instead of merely looking at what network/time the fights are on, like exists now?

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    1.1 Million for Bellator on Saturday.

    So they sacrificed an entire season of ratings for a 1.1 Million. And certainly lost a lot of money in the process.

    I know the typical fans will claim this is a huge success…. But they advertised this event for months…. Put it on free TV…. And it still couldn’t make a huge impact.

    This is feeling like Strikeforce all over again. It has the same vibe. Ratings going slightly up but the wheels falling off behind the scenes and a lot of money being lost.

  10. 45 Huddle says:


    Did you see the 20 year UFC Documentary yesterday? I saw the first 90 minutes. Shockingly very very good. Not a fluff piece.

    And get this… they even had interviews with big john mccarthy when it came to the unified rules. It is almost if they were giving him credit. Overall a very honest look at the business.


    DFW said MMA is not mainstream. And this is a surprise to him? Yikes. Talk about living in a bubble.

    As long as the UFC is available, I could care less if it was main stream…

  11. Get rid of the brain dead Andy Foster and put a Federal Overseerer we might have a sport in Cali.

    • Steve4192 says:

      I don’t think Andy Foster is brain dead. I just think he is out of his depth. By all accounts he did a fantastic job running the Georgia Athletic Commission, but California is a completely different kettle of fish.


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