Slice-Shamrock scheduled for June Bellator MMA event on Spike TV

February 26, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson will finally meet Ken Shamrock as part of a Bellator card slated for June 20th at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.  The show will headline a Spike TV televised main card.

As MMA Junkie points out, the Bellator event will take place on the same day as UFC Fight Night 69 in Berlin.  The UFC event looks to be a Fight Pass only card.

Slice signed with Bellator MMA last month.  The 41 year old has not fought in MMA since his loss to Matt Mitrone in 2010.

Kimbo Slice-Ken Shamrock was the main event on an EliteXC card on CBS back in 2008.  MMA fans may recall that Shamrock was a late scratch and replaced by Seth Petruzelli.  Slice was knocked out by Petruzelli in the first round and the reputation of Kimbo took a big hit.

Payout Persepctive:

It will be interesting to see how the Missouri Athletic Commission deals with this fight as Slice is in his 40s and has not fought in 5 years.  Shamrock is 51 and although he was scheduled to fight in a bare knuckle match in April, he last had an MMA fight in November 2010.  The booking falls in line with Bellator’s “tent pole” events.  We saw this last November with Ortiz-Bonnar.  It was a ratings success.  Slice-Shamrock should provide the same.  Slice has been a ratings draw and Bellator is hoping that he still is.

WWE-Lesnar contract negotiations stall

February 26, 2015

Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting reports that Brock Lesnar and the WWE have stalled in negotiations on a new contract.  The former UFC heavyweight champ could be heading back to MMA with either Bellator or the UFC.

Lesnar was advertised to appear on this week’s WWE Raw on Monday but never appeared despite being at the arena.  Meltzer’s sources indicated that the no-show was due to an impasse on a new contract.  It was described as “resolvable, but not yet resolved.”

Lesnar has 4 appearances left with the WWE before his contract expires.  The WWE would like to extend his contract prior to it ending at this year’s Wrestlemania in March.

Despite being 38 years old, Lesnar would be welcomed back to MMA by the UFC or Bellator.

Payout Perspective:

It’s interesting that despite his previous injuries and age, Lesnar would command a bidding war.  One would think that based on the contract impasse with the WWE, that Lensar has some leverage as the UFC and perhaps Bellator would be interested in signing the former UFC heavyweight champion.  Despite his short stint with the UFC, Lesnar was a major PPV draw and despite his layoff, his return would likely be a big event.  One would think that the UFC would be willing to spend the money on Lesnar as it is in need of PPV needle-movers.  Also, Bellator might be a destination under the new Scott Coker regime.

Bellator 133 overnight and adjusted viewership numbers

February 18, 2015

Bellator 133 held last Friday night drew an average viewership of 565,000 on Spike TV which is considerably down from January’s Bellator 132.  Its adjusted viewership (Live +3) increased to 606,000 viewers.

The event peaked at 967,000 viewers.  In the main event, Alexander Shlemenko used a spinning backfist to KO Melvin Manhoef in the second round.

Bellator 2015 viewership

Payout Perspective:

In terms of competition, the NBA All Star Events may have drawn some viewers away although it seems like the demo watching those festivities would not watch Bellator.  The NBA Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7:00pm drew 1.78 million viewers while the Rising Stars game on TNT held at 9:00pm drew 1.55 million viewers per Television By Numbers.  In terms of winning the night in cable ratings “Gold Rush” (4.6 million) followed by “Alaskan Bush People” (3.8 million) on the Discovery Channel were 1-2 in the cable ratings.

Coker ok with uniform drug testing policy if all support it

February 16, 2015

MMA Junkie reports on Bellator’s Scott Coker addressing the need for uniform MMA drug testing.

Coker indicated his approval for a “worldwide testing policy” for MMA.  However, he stated that “everyone would have to support it” lest it not work.  Obviously, we may infer Coker is alluding to the UFC which is in need of a solution to its recent influx of fighters failing drug tests.

But, the UFC is not the only one with drug issues.  Coker had four of his fighters fail drug tests at Bellator 127 last year.  Coker indicated that the commissions, which regulate the fights in the states where the company holds events, administer the drug tests.  He did not attest to what was done prior to taking over Bellator.  He stated that he reached out to all of his fighters about fighting clean after Bellator 127.

The Mohegan Department of Athletic Regulation (MDAR) will administer the drug tests for Bellator’s next event February 27th.  MDAR conducts “out of competition” drug testing in addition to its standard testing.

Payout Perspective:

While Coker’s call for a uniform policy of drug testing sounds positive, it can do more by being the leader in drug testing for the sport rather than calling for all organizations to abide by the same set of rules.  Calling for a “worldwide testing policy” seems like Bellator is putting the drug issue into UFC’s lap to make a move first.  Certainly, if Bellator adopted a stringent drug policy it would make a statement about its commitment to integrity in the sport.  Coker talking to his fighters about fighting clean is a good thing but I’m sure this will not be a deterrent for some fighters looking for any advantage that they can get.

Spike TV announces “Friday Night Lights Out”

February 13, 2015

Spike TV has announced that its combat sports-branded Friday night now has a name. Per a press release it has named it “Friday Night Lights Out” with the first night under the new moniker starting March 13th.

Below is a portion of the Spike TV press release:

Spike TV has given combat sports fans a destination every Friday night with its action-packed Bellator MMA, “Premier Boxing Champions,” and Glory kickboxing. Now, Spike TV has given that destination a name – SPIKE’S FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT.

Launching on Friday, March 13 at 9:00pm ET/PT with the debut of “Premier Boxing Champions,” Spike TV will package its hard-hitting roster of combat sports franchises under the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT banner.

Each FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT live telecast on Spike TV will include special content including in-depth feature segments showcasing the fighters and their unique personal stories.

“With first-rate production values, engaging on-air personalities, and some of the most athletically-gifted and fearsome athletes in the world, FRIDAYNIGHT LIGHTS OUT on Spike TV is THE must-see home for sports fans on Fridays nights,” said Jon Slusser, Senior Vice President, Sports and Branded Entertainment.

On-air and digital spots for SPIKE’S FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT sports block promoting the March 13 PBC event will begin during the “Bellator 133: Manhoef vs. Shlemenko” telecast on Friday, February 13 at 9:00pm ET/PT.

Payout Perspective:

Friday Night Lights Out should be an interesting programming experiment for Spike TV. Each sport (Bellator, Glory and PBC) should complement the other as it’s the hope that fans of one will give the other sport a try. It’s clear that Spike TV wants to give this night a chance by building it out with production as well. We will see what the product looks like March 13th.

Report: Miller Lite signs on to be Bellator MMA title sponsor

February 10, 2015

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Miller Lite has signed on to be Bellator MMA’s official title sponsor for its 16 events this year.

No financial details were reported.  The deal will go across Spike TV platforms (we assume this means online including the Spike TV App) including  on-air branded fight clock graphic and press-conference signage.

Miller Lite has been involved in sponsorship of Bellator events in the past and was known as the official bear for the company.  The official deal begins February 27th at Bellator 134.

Payout Perspective:

According to the report, its the biggest deal for Miller Lite in MMA .  The deal can be seen as Miller Lite affirming its support of Bellator and its new strategy.  As we know, Bud Light owns the center of the Octagon in the UFC (actually Budweiser was the center for the last PPV but you get the point).  The move shows the positive momentum for Bellator MMA as it heads into a big year for the organization.  For Miller Lite, we shall see if it makes additional moves in combat sports.  With Spike TV repackaging Friday nights with a combat sports focus, it would be interesting to see if Miller Lite brokers other deals with Glory or Premier Boxing Champions.


Bellator MMA signs Kimbo Slice

January 16, 2015

Earlier today, Neil Rooke from Combat Press broke the news that Bellator MMA will be announcing the signing of the Ex-EliteXC and TUF star Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson during Fridays Bellator broadcast on Spike TV.

John Morgan from MMAJunkie later confirmed that report on Twitter.


Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting time for MMA.  In the past, this would have been ridiculed and perhaps bashed by many MMA fans, but the fact is that MMA needs as many stars as possible right now and this move has been perceived as positive by many.  After all, this comes after the UFC just signed pro-wrestler CM Punk and there are talks of other pro-wrestlers negotiating with both the UFC and Bellator. Brock Lesnar is another big name that the UFC hopes to sign back into the promotion after his WWE contract is up in a few months.

The move should come as no surprise to those who have followed Bellator recently.  There has been a big effort in signing proven talent to the company as of late.  Rampage Jackson was signed after producing some big ratings on Spike TV during his TUF 10 stint against Rashad Evans.  The same can be said about Kimbo Slice, whose season of TUF drew 3M viewers for the entire season and his fight against Roy Nelson drew a record-breaking audience on the network with nearly 6M viewers. Bellator has also shown interest in having talks with Brock Lesnar after his contract expires, which is intriguing since Bellator MMA already has TNA pro-wrestling star Bobby Lashley under contract.


14 for 14: No. 3 (tie) Bellator 131 scores ratings, Bellator hits PPV

December 31, 2014

A pair of Bellator events make it to the top 3.  First, Bellator 131 has its best ratings.

Bellator 131 on SpikeTV

November 15, 2014 was the biggest event in Bellator history to date.  As we know, Bellator 131 took place in San Diego, California with Tito Ortiz taking on Stephan Bonnar in the main event.  The main card took place on Spike TV and scored the largest rating ever for the organization.

Ortiz-Bonnar drew an average of 1.8 million viewers on SpikeTV with a peak of over 2 million which made it the most-watched and highest-rated MMA fight on cable in 2014.  The overall telecast of 3 hours and 16 minutes drew a rating of 1.24 million viewers.  Each of the fights on the Spike TV card drew over 1 million viewers and it was the clear winner of the night compared to the UFC 180 Prelims and WSOF card which portions of those shows aired at the same time as Bellator 131.

The great ratings for the event were based on strong promotion of the card which included shoulder programming on SpikeTV and, of course, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.  While their “bad blood” stemmed from a pro-wrestling-like skit, the build was promoted well by Bellator.  Although the actual fight was not a classic, Bellator got what it wanted, an audience willing to tune in.

Payout Perspective:

Bellator 131 was a reflection of the Scott Coker-era and his new strategy.  Based on the ratings, it seemed to work.  On a night opposite a UFC PPV, Bellator seemingly won the night.  We will see if its strategy of placing quarterly tent pole events will continue to work.

Bellator finally on PPV

In May, Bellator decided to test the waters of PPV.  After its initial plans were set aside due to an injury by headliner Tito Ortiz, it went ahead with another try in May.

Unfortunately, its co-main event fell through as Eddie Alvarez had to pull out due to an injury.  In his place to face Michael Chandler was Will Brooks.  With a Rampage Jackson-Mo Lawal headliner the question was whether the card was strong enough to remain on PPV.

The PPV’s price point was between $35 and $45 which some believed was overpriced for the talent the event was offering.

It turns out, the PPV was a small success as multiple reports had the PPV at 100,000 buys.  The number was confirmed by Spike TV’s president Kevin Kay.

Payout Perspective:

Although the PPV was a success, it appears that Bellator will step back from any further attempts at PPV for now.  If the 100K PPV buy rate is correct, it’s a testament to the promotion and shoulder programming by Spike which supported the event.  It also played up the rivalry between Jackson and Lawal.  Once again, known talent (Jackson) and a hot rivalry helped bring in the PPV buys.  We’ll see if Coker’s strategy will include another Bellator PPV down the line.

14 for 14: No. 5 CM Punk signs with the UFC

December 30, 2014

It’s rare that a hyped-up announcement lives up to expectations.  But, the signing of Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk) did when he came on during the UFC 181 PPV to announce his intent to fight in the UFC.

Punk’s announcement left many UFC fans wondering about the direction of the UFC.  Some like the signing seeing it as good business as Punk is a “needle mover.”  Others, like Nate Diaz and Jon Jones questioned the signing.  For those fighters that had to fight and scrape their way to make it to the UFC, seeing Punk, a 36 year old without any MMA fights under his belt, entering the UFC was a joke.

Jones provided sound reasoning for his anti-Punk sentiment (via MMA Fighting):

“Every day I’m [Jones] at the gym watching these kids training. These guys have no money and they’re training their tails off, giving up everything to be a fighter.  Living in the gym, eating turkey and peanut butter, bare minimum to chase this dream and then a superstar like him just gets to jump into the UFC just because he knows the right people and has a name.”

Punk stated at the initial interview that he had not decided on a place to train and what weight division he would compete in.

The signing came shortly after Punk was on the Colt Cabana Podcast detailing health issues including admitting to 12 or 13 concussions.  One would think that this concern will come into play if a commission will have to sanction Punk’s first fight.

Payout Perspective:

Can Punk draw ratings and PPV buys for the UFC?  The day after UFC 181, the name CM Punk drew over 100,000 in U.S. google searches.  A Fox Sports Live which featured a CM Punk interview drew more than the usual amount of viewers.  One might conclude that there is a definite interest, or should we say curiosity, about whether Punk can actually fight.  Sure, he is great in the gym and trains with a lot of MMA fighters, but there are a lot of basketball players that are great in the gym but horrible in actual games.  Will Punk be able to translate his athletic ability in the Octagon?  Although Brock Lesnar was able to make the switch to MMA, he was a decorated college wrestler.  He also had at least one pro fight before entering the UFC.  Thus, the Punk signing is a gamble.  Moreover, the Punk signing reflects a move by the UFC to focus on the spectacle aspect of its business.

14 for 14: No. 6 Rebney replaced by Coker

December 29, 2014

Bjorn Rebney was relieved of his duties as the head of Bellator in June of this year. He was replaced by former Strikeforce head Scott Coker.

In addition, Bellator president and COO Tim Danaher was let go by Viacom.  According to MMA Fighting, the replacement of Rebney was dependent on waiting out Coker’s Zuffa’s non-compete clause.

Rebney indicated that he had differed “on views of the right strategic direction.”

A week or so before the change Rebney announced a change to its title fights which allowed for former tournament winners to challenge for a title.  They would no longer have to enter a tournament again to regain a chance for a title fight.

Looking back, one might infer a difference of opinion with the Bellator tournament structure.  In fact, this was one of the changes made by Coker upon him taking power.

Coker produced the biggest event in Bellator history in November with Bellator 131 with the main event of Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.  The change in promotion philosophy looks to have the company turning the corner as it competes with the UFC in the MMA landscape.

Payout Perspective:

The move from Rebney to Coker looks to have worked out in the short term.  He’s focused on the “less is more” strategy with the goal of producing 16 shows next year while focusing on quarterly “big events” which would include title fights along with headline names.  Per MMA Fighting, Coker plans on concentrating on promoting the company’s monthly shows on Spike TV along with focusing on a three month marketing campaign for its “big events” which will air on Saturday nights.  With word that it will actively try to sign more free agents including Brock Lesnar after his WWE contract expires, one might assume that Viacom is willing to expand its budget for Bellator.

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