When Bellator started getting hype from MMA Junkie, I kinda just thought they were going to be another stupid small promotion everyone would ignore. After all, this was a Spanish-language fighting event tucked away on ESPN Desportes, the real life equivalent of ESPN8: The Ocho. Add in their ambitious plan to run events nearly every weekend and I figured we’d get a few marginally successful events and then a pulled plug.
Instead, Bellator has managed to carve themselves a very nice niche, pulling strong ratings and keeping MMA fans from obsessing about their business model by providing us shiny distractions in the form of amazing Youtube highlights. I have no doubt that Bellator is still running at a loss, but you’re not hearing anyone obsess about that the way we all do about Affliction. Why? Because these guys seem to know what they’re doing. That illusion will probably be shattered soon (perhaps the co-owner will be revealed as a pregger-punching elderly defrauder?), but for now they’ve got a lot of people quietly optimistic that Bellator is going to be a solid mid-level promotion for a while to come.
Leland Rolling has a good article on Bloody Elbow laying out what Bellator is doing right. The most interesting bit to me was how the promotion actually pays it’s champs better than the WEC:
On a final note, there is one more driving force that I think needs to be brought up. Many fans believe the big time promotions like the UFC, WEC, DREAM, and Sengoku could potentially take these champions out of Bellator. While I believe this is a possibility, here’s something to think about. While both Faber and Brown complained a bit about the payouts received at WEC 41, Joe Soto earned $175,000 in three fights over a 2-month period. He earned $75,000 in his first 2 fights in only a month. With payouts exceeding $100,000 in a short amount of time and the fact that Bellator is willing to quickly put fighters back into the mix, it should entice a lot of fighters to think about fighting for Bellator. If Bellator manages to break into the ESPN demographic, it’ll also translate to better sponsorship dollars for fighters as well.
Sure, only the tournament winners get the big bucks. But when Miguel Torres is on track to make 88k in purse money this year from the WEC, I don’t know if that’s much consolation. The boys at Zuffa like to claim that they’re keeping the WEC financially responsible but another way to look at it is they aren’t investing the money into the WEC that’s needed to entice and keep the best fighters from around the world.