As you may know media conglomerate Viacom Inc. has bought a major stake of mixed martial arts promotion Bellator Fighting Championship (Bellator). The purchase went down officially on Oct. 26th, 2011 and it was noted Bellator would be moved from MTV2 to Spike come 2013.
With Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce last year in an attempt to eliminate competition it is now facing another rising phoenix. The tournament based promotion may not have the same star power as Strikeforce was able to sign and create but it does have it's draws.
In this article i will attempt to see what good this and what bad this deal may hold in the long run. The MMA landscape is different since, Zuffa bought up Strikeforce.
Join me after the hump for more.
First you must analyze what Viacom is essentially, it is a major player in the media field of television and film. In television it owns major channels like MTV, MTV2, Comedy Central, Spike, BET, VH1, CMT and Nickelodeon. It also has major footing in film as it owns Viacom International, Paramount Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Films.
The global subscriber total is an astonishing 600 million subscribers and owns the rights to 500-plus branded digital media properties.
In 2010 in terms of revenue ($) it was in the top of media conglomerates alongside Walt Disney, News Corp., Time Warner and CBS. In the same report from Forbes it's worth is $13,497,000,000 but did has had some drop since 2009.
All in all-big backers.
Now see history is doomed to repeat itself and in promotion the closest example we have is the rise and fall of World Championship Wrestling (WCW). At one time WCW was known as Jim Crockett Promotions and was affliated with the once proud National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
In November of 1988, Crockett sold the regional promotion to Ted Turner and Turner Broadcasting and it was renamed WCW. Now between 1988-1995 the wrasslin' business wasn't too profitable for Turner as he was running against the well-oiled machine, World Wrestling Federation. The WWF itself exploded following the overwhelming success of Wrestlemania and had Hulk Hogan.
A whole seven years passed until the economic tide of Turner's purchase started to turn in 1995. Under the direction of former lackey Eric Bischoff the promotion exploded. The bright idea was giving WCW a new primetime slot that began on September 4th, 1995.
Now the reason i bring up WCW isn't to draw whole story of the faded wrestling company but it starts to show what may happen. See WCW really gathered speed when it was able to sign former WWF superstar Hulk Hogan to a huge multi-million dollar contract that was heavily in Hogan's favor.
It was the epicenter of major issues.
See WCW has been referred to as the never ending ATM by Hulk Hogan who was rumored to get amillion dollars a pay per view and almost 10 million guaranteed a year. I admit i cannot verify these numbers as wrestler's contracts are not publicly released like fighter's purses but it wasn't unrealistic.
Hulk Hogan is and always be a draw even in the short term but long term success has dwindled. The Hulk Hogan WCW got wasn't the WWF unbeatable Hogan. At that time, Hogan was coming off losing to the Ultimate Warrior (broken BJ Penn) andwas caught up in the McMahon steroid scandal so Hogan was much leaner then his 250+ pound days.
WCW failed to produce homegrown talent and it kept picking up scraps from the WWF who came for the money and didn''t bother to perform. Very few stars were born in WCW or even got the chance to rise to the top.
Fast forward to 2009 and we have rising promotion, Strikeforce making it's biggest signing over it's defunct rival, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It signed it's Hulk Hogan' in former Pride and WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. It was huge and everyone now had eyes on the promotion that was once a regional promotional out of San Jose, California.
The promotion would make it's CBS debut with Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers and it drew 5.5 million viewers with two unproven North American draws. Coming into the promotion, Fedor was undefeated and had knack for the spectacular moments. Well, if you watched round one like i did (uninebriated) then you saw something very odd, a former Sam'sClub employee with minimal MMAexperience doing well against the poundfor pound king.
Now Fedor knocked out Rogers with one of the most vicious punches ever seen but fans were still talking about how well Rogers did compared to their idea of what Rogers was.
Fedor was very expensive and the iron curtain had somewhat been pulled back and we saw a different side of Fedor. Now the real issue with Fedor wasn't himself but rather the people behind Fedor, M-1 Global. M-1 Global had laughed at Dana White and his report six figure and 'blank cheque' offer to sign the Russian after the purchase of Pride. They literally screwed themselves and Fedor as we step ahead of ourselves.
It was widely rumored the Fedor would face Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem in a superfight for the promotion. Well, for whatever reason that's never surfaced it was Fedor's knockout victim Brett Rogers getting the title shot. Well, if it was M-1 Global ducking Fedor from a possible loss then karma is indeed abitch.
Fedor would face Abu Dhabi submission wizard and Brazilian jui jitsu black belt Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum. The oddsmakers had only history to rely upon, Werdum was coming off a crushing knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos in the UFC and Fedor had nearly sent Brett Rogers head into the 5th row.
In under two minutes from the opening bell Werdum would make Fedor tap out to a triangle choke. The crowd was stunned as it didn't see a UFC castaway beating Fedor, ever. Werdum'seyes glazed with celebration and some disbelief as Fedor's titanic run had hit it's iceberg and you my fellow Maniac's have MMA's Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior.
Fedorwould go on to be smashed apart by the gigantic Antonio Silva in the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and then Fedor would get knocked out by a guy who had to gain weight to make heavyweight in Dan Henderson. Millions were still paid and millions were wasted upon one of the greatest fighter's we may ever seen.
Strikeforce would continue to overpay because they had to compete with the allure of the UFC. It overpaid again when acquiring free agent Dan Henderson. It put Henderson against their middleweight champion Jake Shields at Strikeforce: Nashville. It was Henderson's debut and the last fight on Shields contract and the entire plan backfired for Strikeforce. Jake Shields would beat Dan Henderson, leave as an undefeated champion andsign a new lucrative contract with the UFC. Strikeforce was left with a mid-30's middleweight who lost to what many believe was a natrual welterweight fighter.
Those are the breaks, kid.
Now let's fast forward to the newly formed rerelationship of Bellator-Viacom which will see Bellator move to the UFC's old television carrier, Spike in 2013. Viacom has a track record of success when Spike decided to carry the UFC's inaugural season of the 'Ultimate Fighter' and from there a partnership was born. Unlike Tuner when it purchased WCW it had a track record of success with mixed martial arts.
Here's the problem-there is no Hulk Hogan laying around to be signed. Fedor Emelianenko is no longer the undefeated fighter and when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce it slowly started to stuff it's cupboards with it's champions Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson and soon to be Gilbert Melendez if Dana White gets his way.
Bellator has homegrown talent in Hector Lombard, Ben Askren, Cole Konrad, Eddie Alvarez and the Patricky brothers. Bellator hasn't reached for any major stars but has added Ben Saunders, Roger Huerta and Ricco Rodriguez to bolster their depth. Bellator still hasn't had aguy that would make you ensure you watch though.
Bellator is tournament based and like the old UFC format it is aproven success to making stars. One guy faces 3 men in his route to become tournament champion. You witness his ups and downs but by god you watched overcome to win.The recent success story of this was Jeff Curran's younger brother pat coming in through the tournament and knocking out heavyily favored Marlon Sandros-instant drama.
Now the only way a title fight happens is at the conclusion of a tournament so we have Bellator super fights occur to keep the champion on tv. This was a good story when the champion won 12 out of 12 times then came UFC vet and light heavyweight Travis Wiuff.
At Bellator 55 Bellator light heavyweight champion Christian M'Pumbu fought Wiuff in a non-title affair. The funny thing is that M'Pumbu is one of the smallest light heavyweights who is better suited for middleweight and Wiuff is huge for light heavyweight so come bell time the size was almost 30 pounds.Wiuff didn't win a clean fight as he grinded out and at times survived to beat the champion. This left a black eye on the promotion and questions as to what this means have not been directly answered.
Now let's assume that the major players like Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, Tyrone Woodley, King Lawal, Jordan Mein and champions Luke Rockhold and Gilbert Melendez are assimilated into the UFC, what stars are left to be sign?
The UFC will not just cut guys due to having too many and does Bellator want a former star on multiple losses coming in andmaybe cleaning house? kind of waters down your talent pool. Outside of the UFC the biggest names are the likes of Paul Daley, Ryan Jimmo, Glover Texeria, Tim Sylvia, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawijiri and Fedor. I assume Fedor and his major pay day won't be suiting The rest of the crop doesn't make you want to jump out and sign as soon as possible.
The one thing Bellator has is a good eye for talent that hasn't been tapped and adding other promotions castaways that are exciting like Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima as examples. It has also used formers stars Roger Huerta and Paul Buentello as stepping stones ofr Eddie Alvarez and Cole Konrad to gain more notoriety.
The question is-will Viacom demand bigger names to make it's stockholders more pleased. Viacom is a publicly traded business which mean it has sstockholders who indeed have a say. How many want Bellator to create profit like the UFC was able to for Spike?.
See Ted Turner loves or atleast loved pro wrestling when he bought into the business from Jim Crockett in 88'. Does Viacom have the sam passion for mixed martial arts as Turner had for wrestling. Will Bellator be able to turn a profit sooner then the seven years it took WCW?, i'm betting Viacom has a plan of what it will consider an acceptable loss to an unacceptable loss. Viacom hasn't had a single entity within it's ranks to say "I love MMA, i love what Bellator is doing". This was simply a big company taking a shot on a company that has done well on MTV2 and has seen advertising growth with the likes of Everlast.
Bellator this season has done between 103,000 to 325,000 viewers on MTV2 and MTV2 is available in 60 million homes as it is now. Spike has a viewership of 80 millions homes and is shown in high definition. To see Bellator in HD you'd have to have EPIX and of course not many cable providers even carrier the channel. I don't see many Maniac's forking money over to get EPIX. How will Viacom respond to these viewer numbers as it is now when it knows an additional 20 million homes have access to it?.
I've seen shows that at one time did 14 million viewers then by season three it may have peeked around 10 million viwers and get cancelled. Viacom isn't in the position it is today by it's execs romancing over it's favorite shows, it's where it is due to smart business decisions. In fact i say Bellator is a decent risk as UFC gets bigger mixed martial arts bigger.
Thisoesn't work in all sports but in combat sports as long a sthe fights are good nobody will care who is showing the event. Taking boxing and the alphabet of acronym promotions you will see it doesn't matter to the fans. WBO, WBA or even IBF don't matter to most fans as they just want to see good boxing.
UFC is MMA as we have all had friends give us the weird eye as we mention MFC or XFC or even Shark Fights. When say pop you mention Coke or Pepsi and you say Kleenex not tissue anymore. Cna Bellator be the pepsi to the coke andwill Viacom be okay with?. The UFC has made itself one of the major acronyms in the sports world and fans of the majority are under the understanding that it's UFC or it's bush league.
As long as Bellator and Viacom acknowledge that they may never overcome the UFC as the numero uno in MMA promoting and does what is working now then they should be fine. Viacom is obviously wanting profit and Bellator on Spike is capable but that debut show has to be stacked come 2013.
You only get to make a first impression, right?
Let's just hope Spike's wrestling brand TNA doesn't have Bellator copy it's model, you know take old used guys and try and recreate what your competition does. Hmm there it is again-history repeating itself.
Good luck, Bellator-Viacom
So Maniac's whatcha think?