16 for 16: No. 14 Bellator 149

December 20, 2016

In match-ups that reflect the organization’s penchant for odd attractions, Bellator 149 featured former street fighters Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 and fighters past their prime Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.

Actually, you could argue that all four of the featured fighters should not have been in the cage on February 19th.  Yet, it was the biggest audience for Bellator in 2016.

In the last fight of the night, Gracie defeated Shamrock in round 1.  While we could digest this since it didn’t last long, Slice-Dada was unbearable to watch after the first minute of the fight.

Booked as a brawl between two ex-street fighters, Kevin Ferguson and Dhafir Harris ran out of gas after the first minute of the fight and, as we learned later, Harris almost died in the cage as he essentially gave up due to exhaustion.  Ferguson tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone post-fight and his win was overturned to a no-contest.

In addition, Shamrock tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone and methadone.

Despite the main event of Slice and Dada and the post-fight failed tests, the event was the highest-rated event for the company.  Each fight on the telecast drew over 1.9 million viewers while the fights between Ferguson-Harris (2.9M) and Gracie-Shamrock (2.8M) surged to over 2 million viewers on Spike TV.

The Bellator tentpole model has worked and this event highlights the sports entertainment aspect of MMA.  The Slice-Dada promos for the fight were “must see” television.  The actual fight was not.  But, viewers were drawn to watch.  Ferguson, who passed away this past June, was a ratings magnet which likely helped the ratings.  Nostalgia of Shamrock-Gracie also brought casual viewers to watch.

One of the big questions about the event was how the main event participants were able to obtain a license to fight.  While there is no link between Ferguson’s death and his fighting career, one has to wonder what was included in his medical information to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.  Same could be asked of Harris.  It was clear he was in no condition to fight, yet was still granted a license.   While he met the requirements, one has to wonder how stringent they were at the time.

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