Fighting on Saturday Nights is a bold choice made by CEO Bjorn Rebney, as there will be competition from bigger MMA organizations almost every week. Through the first five Bellator events of the season, three have been on the same night as a UFC or Strikeforce card. Bellator drew their best ratings, a combined 471,000 viewers for the live and replay telecasts of Bellator 36, on one of the weeks devoid of competition.
With Bellator's tournament format, the fights will continue to get better and the names will get bigger. Bellator 40-42 feature tournament semi-finals on top of non-title matches for US Olympian Ben Askren (Welterweight) as well as non-title fights for champions Joe Warren (Featherweight), Zach Makovsky (Bantamweight) and Cole Konrad (Heavyweight). Bellator 39 featured the first title defense of Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez.
But the big names and big fights will not guarantee big ratings. The unopposed Bellator 39 drew a combined 263,000 viewers and Bellator 40 will go against a stacked Strikeforce card headlined by title fights featuring Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley and Gilbert Melendez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Increased viewership will come down to how well Bellator can market itself to the casual fan. MTV already features the popular show Bully Beatdown featuring Strikeforce fighter Jason “Mayhem” Miller. But one thing is for sure, the fights cannot get much more exciting. Bellator already has early contenders for KO of the Year with Patricky Pitbull's flying knee and Submission of the Year with Richard Hale's inverted triangle.
35 – 200,000 (127,000) March 5 vs Strikeforce Hendo vs Feijao
36 – 230,000 (241,000) March 12 Unopposed
37 – 173,000 (150,000) March 19 vs UFC 128
38 – 150,000 (90,000) March 26 vs UFC Davis vs Nogueira
39 – 174,000 (89,000) April 2 Unopposed
40 – April 9 vs Strikeforce Daley vs Diaz
41 – April 16 Unopposed
42 – April 23 Unopposed