MPO Year in Review: 10. Bellator continues to sign former UFC stars

December 27, 2017

Another year, another group of UFC fighters are testing the other league with former Zuffa indy contractors heading over to the Viacom-owned company.

Michael McDonald, Gegard Mousasi, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Valerie Letourneau and Ryan Bader all signed with Bellator in 2017.  Rory MacDonald made his promotional debut for Bellator in May with a successful victory over Paul Daley.

The “Red King” might be the only one from the above group that the UFC may have wanted to hold onto.  MacDonald’s defection to Bellator was the best acquisition thus far (excluding Tito Ortiz) from the UFC fighters testing free agency waters.  Mousasi may be another although it seemed as though the UFC could not capitalize on his international appeal.

For Bellator, the acquisitions help builds up their roster.  Even though most of the fighters the UFC let go are past their prime and/or deemed not entertaining, the UFC brand has pull with the casual fans.  We shall see if Scott Coker will make a push for more former UFC fighters in 2018.  For the fighters, it provides a fresh start and a chance to capitalize on earning opportunities (i.e., sponsors).

MPO Year in Review: Bellator NYC does not deliver

December 25, 2017

It was Bellator MMA’s big debut in New York City as it returned to PPV with the long-awaited grudge match between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva.  Scott Coker stated that the mid-200,000 (buys) would be respectable.

However, the PPV card disappointed with 95,000 buys.

The event also featured Fedor Emelianenko as he faced Matt Mitrione.

The PPV was split with fights, dubbed as “Bellator 180” airing on 2 different networks and featuring Ryan Bader against Phil Davis.  The MSG event drew 12,133 with a gate of $1,630,314.  The television portion aired on Spike TV and Country Music Television drawing a combined 901,000 viewers.

According to an ESPN story, Viacom’s investment in the event was “20 to 30 times more” than anything put into Coker’s previous “tent pole” events.  The investment came with expectations and based on the PPV numbers did not deliver.

Bellator’s first try at PPV garnered 100,000 buys in 2014.  While the box office did well, the PPV numbers had to be a disappointment considering the belief that the company’s formula of using former UFC stars to headline a Bellator event drew big numbers (e.g., Ortiz-Bonnar).  But, the company foray into PPV still has to be fine tuned as the first two tries have not been good.

Bellator 191 peaked at 737,000 viewers this past Friday on Spike TV

December 20, 2017

This past Friday’s Bellator 191 delivered 571,000 viewers peaking with 737,000 according to Nielsen.  The ratings reflect adjustments for DVR ratings.

Bellator 191 featured the debuts of former UFC stars Michael McDonald and Valerie Letourneau.  The event saw an increase in ratings over the last couple events with a live plus same day rating of 511,000 viewers per Nielsen.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a modest increase in viewership this past Friday night but the event from England produced a higher rating than the past 3 telecasts.  The peak viewership is the highest since Bellator 187.

Bellator 189 draws 439,000 viewers on Spike

December 4, 2017

Bellator 189 drew 439,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event featured Julia Budd defending her Featherweight championship against Arlene Blencowe.  It was Budd’s first title defense as she defeated Blencowe for the second time.

The event took place in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC edged out Bellator on Friday night with its TUF Finale.  Bellator ratings were down slightly from last week’s event in Israel.  The event did not draw as much interest as the UFC which might be due in part to the TUF season and the lack of promotion for the Bellator event.  This is the 6th event this year which has drawn less than 500,000 viewers.

 

Bellator 188 draws 444,000 on Spike TV

November 21, 2017

Bellator 188 drew 444,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event was tape-delayed as it took place in Israel.

In the main event of the card. Jeremiah Labiano defeated Noah Lahat via unanimous decision.  The card was the second straight week of international cards on tape delay.

Payout Perspective:

It’s the lowest-rated card since last month’s Bellator 184 from Oklahoma.  The tape-delay and lack of interest contributed to the low viewership for this card.  It was one for the hardcore fans on Friday night.

Bellator files Statement on Ali Act for Congressional Hearing

November 12, 2017

Bellator MMA submitted a statement to last week’s Subcommittee Hearing on MMA.  The Statement was written by Tracey Lesetar-Smith, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Viacom Media Networks and supports the expansion of the Ali Act to combat sports.

The statement, which becomes part of the Congressional record on MMA, gives a brief history of the boxing and MMA ecosystems.  Lesetar-Smith states that boxing had a pre-existing, sanctioning-body architecture while MMA “organically developed” under a “league” system.  This is described as a different business model than that of boxing.  Unlike the UFC, Bellator states that it “co-promotes events with smaller domestic local promoters and international fight promoters to enhance [its] events and allow them [local promoters] opportunities to showcase their league talent.

Lesetar-Smith made it clear that boxing and MMA use “multi-year, multi-fight, exclusive promotional contracts” and it is not prohibited in the original Ali Act.  There was a distinction made between these contracts and those “coercive contracts” addressed in the Ali Act.

She explained why the organization uses exclusive contracts.  “Bellator invests a great deal of time, resources, and capital into promoting and marketing each long-term athlete and therefore the exclusivity and duration of each contract reflects a desire to seek a return on investment.”  The multi-fight contracts also allow for Bellator to plan and budget for events in advance.  There is also an “outlay” of money for fighters that they do not immediately recoup.

The Statement notes that the UFC “utilized tactics that made competition in the MMA industry very challenging.”  This has made it a challenge to compete with the UFC.

The “unimpaired movement of skilled athletes to organizations” is one of the primary things that can overturn UFC market share according to Bellator.

Bellator states that it relies upon State and Tribal Athletic Commissions to regulate its events.  However, lack of funding, staff and resources have made regulation a challenge.  Bellator requests that the federal government “advocate for and support the work of these Commissions.”  It also champions the health and safety of its fighters and expressed concerns regarding traumatic brain injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and pushed for further safeguards.

Bellator Statement in Support of Ali Act by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

The issue of fighter safety as it relates to TBI or CTE is not addressed in the proposed legislation although Bellator advocates for it.  The requests that the federal government support further health and safety measures is admirable but it also would mean a budget and allocation of federal spending which may not be feasible in this present economic client.  Whether or not you believe that free agency over time will level the field for which Bellator may catch up to the UFC, it is plausible but may not be possible especially with the mainstream appeal of the brand and its new owners.  Yet, Bellator’s statement is the flip side of the UFC’s position on the Ali Act.  It’s an interesting position but remember, among other key differences between the organizations, Bellator does not rely on PPV revenue as much as the UFC nor does it pay its fighters as much.

Rampage Jackson re-signs with Bellator, enters into Grand Prix HW Tourney

November 11, 2017

Bellator announced that Quentin “Rampage” Jackson has re-signed an exclusive multi-fight deal with the company according to a company release.  He is expected to return to the Bellator cage as part of a Heavyweight Grand Prix event ran by the company in 2018.

Jackson was to return to the UFC as a part of a deal with the company relating to a lawsuit between Rampage and Bellator.  According to reports, the UFC renounced its right to Jackson allowing for the former UFC light heavyweight champion to return to Bellator.

Scott Coker announced that Bellator will host an eight-man heavyweight tournament known as the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.  The winner will get the vacant Bellator belt.  Fedor, Frank Mir, Matt Mitrione, Roy Nelson, Ryan Bader, Mo Lawal, Chael Sonnen and Jackson will compete.  No date has been set for the first round of fights but the final is targeted for December 2018.

Payout Perspective:

Jackson’s re-signing is not surprising as the UFC likely did not want to sign him to a big deal.  Moreover, it’s clear based on his recent performances, he was not in the company’s future plans.  But, for Bellator, he can still be of value especially with the Grand Prix tourney.  Jackson will not have to cut weight and can still draw for the company.

Bellator 185 draws 476,000 viewers

October 23, 2017

Bellator 185 drew 476,000 viewers on Friday night on Spike TV according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured the debut of former UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi as he defeated Alexander Shlemenko.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are a modest boost from the last Bellator show but you would have expected a little more considering the debut of Mousasi.  But, the MLB game between the Yankees and Astros on FS1 which drew over 8.2 million viewers probably had something to do with it.

Bellator’s Hardy allowed to box and fight in MMA

October 16, 2017

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator women’s flyweight Heather Hardy’s second fight in the Viacom-owned organization won’t preclude her from stepping into a boxing ring.  Hardy revealed in an interview that her two-year contract with Bellator allows her to continue her boxing career.

Currently, Hardy is working with boxing promoter Lou DiBella but states that there is more opportunity for her in MMA.  The 35-year-old who debuted with Bellator this past June is not limiting her options.

According to the Junkie article, Hardy is guaranteed a minimum of 4 fights in Bellator.

Hardy is a boxing coach and trainer when she is not getting ready for a fight.

Payout Perspective:

The flexibility of Hardy’s contract seems to be something that all MMA fighters want nowadays.  While many wait for their next bout, they want to keep busy some other way.  But, underscoring the flexibility give to Hardy is the likelihood that she is not being compensated well for either job.  It’s like having two part-time jobs.  You have to make ends meet whereas if you were paid well for one you would do it.  On the other end, Bellator or Hardy’s promoter would likely require exclusivity if she was a draw or became one.

Bellator 184 draws 437,000 viewers on SpikeTV

October 9, 2017

Bellator 184 drew 437,000 viewers on Friday night on Spike TV according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The ratings are the lowest for 2017 on Spike TV.

According to Nielsen, the telecast drew 0.16 in the A18-49 demo.

The event was headlined by Darrion Caldwell taking the bantamweight title away from Eduardo Dantas.

Payout Perspective:

In all honesty, I forgot that this event was on this past Friday.  Whether it was my oversight or the lack of marketing for this card, there was not much made about the card despite a title fight.  Bellator’s telecast was followed by Bellator Kickboxing which drew only 250,000 viewers.  Not the best of night’s for combat sports on Spike TV.

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