Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bellator Fighting for A Spot on Saturday Night

With a highlight reel full of devastating knockouts and impressive submissions that seems to grow every week, Bellator Fighting Championships has solidified itself as must-see TV for hardcore MMA fans. And after struggling with a constantly shifting schedule and being preempted by major sports telecasts on Fox Sports, the organization has found a new home on MTV2, but they have not taken the easy route.

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

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