Bellator NYC goes down this Saturday June 24th from Madison Square Gardens, with the pay-per-view portion of the card headlined by Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione. But before that kicks off, Bellator 180 airs on SpikeTV at 8PM, with a light heavyweight title fight between former UFC fighters Ryan Bader and Phil Davis at the top of the card.
Bader recently talked to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani about the "refreshing" atmosphere Bellator provides, and he seems quite content having made the move over from the UFC. It must help that the sponsorship money many fighters lost when Reebok joined the UFC was still there waiting for him when he made the move over.
"It's good. Oh yeah, much, much better [than Reebok]. At least three or four times," Bader said. "I'm back, we're back to the heyday. I think I've talked about it to you before. When people say 'Oh, the sponsorships have dried up,' that's not true. We've had relationships with big companies like American Ethanol, like Cytosport, Monster Milk, Muscle Milk, big huge companies that have stuck by us even when Reebok was there ... at a minimal level but now they get to do the fullest and represent them to the fullest. So we were good two months ago, right when we were ready to go, bam, we were pretty much sold out."
"So for us, I just look at it as a testament to my manager Dave Martin and that team. But people who say it's dried up, their managers are calling, back in the day, calling, seeing something on somebody's shorts and saying 'Hey we've got this guy fighting on the prelim, alright, 2000 bucks, alright, cool.' And that's what they did, they didn't develop these relationships that, however long Reebok has been around, they took that hiatus and when we were back, they came right back in full force. So we were fortunate enough in that aspect."
The current health of the sponsor pool has been a hot topic amongst fighters as Bellator continues to snap up fighters at the end of their UFC contracts. Scott Coker even admitted he uses it as a selling point to draw athletes in. Rory MacDonald recently said he was making less sponsor money in Bellator, but also admitted he was looking to build a few strong relationships with blue chip sponsors rather than cover himself head to toe in logos like a NASCAR driver. But for those willing to go that route, it sounds like money is still there for fighters willing to hustle for it.