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Bellator kicks off Spike debut with title fight sandwich

Bellator had a press conference earlier this week to announce exactly how they’d be consummating their union with Spike this coming January. Due to a wacky UFC exclusive contractual restriction Dana White strangled them with, Bellator was stuck on MTV2 and through 2012. Come 2013, Spike is finally free to hammer it’s viewers with non stop Bellastuffs. Here’s how that’s gonna work:

The show, from the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif., will open with a featherweight title fight with Pat Curran (17-4) defending against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (17-1). The main event on the show will have lightweight champion Michael Chandler (10-0), who defeated Eddie Alvarez in Bellator’s greatest fight in history, defending his championship against 2004 U.S. judo Olympian Rick Hawn (14-1). Freire and Hawn both earned title shots by winning tournaments on MTV2.

The first season will be 12 weeks long with live programming airing immediately after Spike’s pro wrestling franchise, TNA Impact, giving the station in excess of four straight hours of live combat sports and entertainment. The strategy is identical to that when Spike in 2005 launched the UFC brand, putting The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) on directly after WWE Raw when it was Spike’s most popular show.

Identical except for the fact that Bellator is not the UFC and TNA Impact is not WWE Raw. There is a slight difference between those in the ‘People giving a shit’ department, so we’ll see how this all turns out. But if the fights are good, Spike will make sure its viewers see them:

“We’re in the Bellator business for the long haul,” said Kay. “It probably will be rebroadcast on Fridays, Saturdays, if the fights are great, we’ll rebroadcast them every night of the week.”

This is one of those strange advantages Bellator has with Spike over the UFC and FOX. Spike is a giant mishmash of shitty television and execs can stick Bellator anywhere they want at a moment’s notice because hey, who cares about Manswers and Bar Rescue? The UFC, on the other hand, had to suffer through two horrific seasons of TUF before FX begrudgingly gave them an hour on Tuesday night.

There’s a lot of amazing Bellator footage sitting in the vault ready for Spike to exploit, and it’s their use of that (not the weak wrasslin lead in) that is the real X factor in all this. Will Bellator succeed where no other promotion in North America has – can they make people care about a non-UFC MMA product? We’ll find out in 2013.