Questions Linger For Bellator Heading Into Fourth Season
January 17, 2011
Last month, Bellator announced a 3-year TV deal with MTV2 TV, claiming it as a turning point for the promotion. As they head into their 4th season, there are still a few aspects of the deal that are not clear, mainly pertaining to time-slot, production, profitability, and future sustainability.
One aspect that was still not finalized when the deal was announced was Bellator’s broadcast team for next season. Many claim their two man booth, consisting of Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock, has been one of the best around MMA for the past few seasons, which made it seem like a pretty sure bet both men were coming back. In this interview performed by MMATorch, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney expressed some doubt about the situation back in December:
JAMIE PENICK: Will Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock still be your broadcast team for this year?
BJORN REBNEY: Well, I hate to put people on the spot, but we’re working through all the broadcast team issues as we speak, both English and Spanish language announce teams, ring announcer, the whole thing. I was thrilled with our teams last year, I thought our Spanish language team did an amazing job, I though our cage announcer Michael Williams was, from my perspective, awesome and industry leading. And I’m just real happy with everything that everybody did on air for Bellator. We should be making those announcements in terms of who’s going to be back in short order. We haven’t done anything official, but of course with a three year deal, with television, you’re looking to secure alliances with your talent that extend throughout the entirety of that three years, so we’re working through all of that. What I can tell you is that I thought everybody did an amazing job. I thought we had two of the best on-air teams in the history of MMA in both English and Spanish, and I thought Michael did a great job as well.
Last week, Jimmy Smith went on TapouT Radio and shed some light on the situation (transcribed by FightOpinion):
Well, it’s… it’s kind of strange, I haven’t heard anything since early December. I want to say like December 1st, maybe even the end of November. Pretty much we had a, you know, we still have a contract through 2011 but they, the deal was they wanted me to sign an extension and, you know, for various reasons I didn’t like the extension and so I haven’t heard anything in, God, coming up on two months now and, uh… so it’s, I find it highly unlikely I’ll be coming back to Bellator.
MiddleEasy was also able to catch-up with Smith, where he went into more detail regarding the situation.
Here’s the situation right now, we had a contract through 2011 to do Bellator. They wanted us to sign with their new network deal an extension of three years, starting with this year . The contract was just unacceptable, it wasn’t what we wanted so I refused to sign the extension. I thought the contract we had until 2011 was a better deal, and that was it. I haven’t heard anything since late November.
“It’s really odd, considering what I thought was a really great breakout 2010 year for Bellator and for Sean and myself as a broadcast team it feels like we had a lot of momentum and everything was going great — and then, boom. It was almost within — not even a week for everything to fall apart. It was really weird considering the kind of 2010 we had.”
There is plenty to question about Bellator as they head into their 4th season. Most have focused on trying to tackle how Bellator will make a profit and become sustainable in 2011, but putting those aside, there are also some other pretty big question-marks heading into next season, including multiple pending lawsuits with Zuffa as well as dealing with contract disputes with fighters and staff.
It appears that Bellator may be doing a bit of restructuring for their next season, trying to lock everyone in for the 3-years as well as dropping lingering contract issues with fighters. One publicized dispute pertained to HW prospect Dave Herman’s inability to get a fight with Bellator or with any other MMA promotion in North America. MMAPayout has learned that Dave Herman is now free from all legal disputes with Bellator and has started fielding offers from other promotions.
Heading into next season, Bellator will need to focus on the tasks they have at hand with their new TV partner. Legal disputes with Zuffa ,which will most likely run into 2012, regarding the UFC’s signing of last season’s TUF winner Jonathan Brookins, will definitely hurt their bottom line, as they struggle to turn the corner and aim to become profitable this year. Dropping ongoing legal battles with fighters like Herman are smart choices, considering they will have their hands full heading into another ambitious season of weekly televised events.