Bad News Bellator: Breaking Down the 5 Biggest Problems Facing Bellator in 2012


If you are Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, you really do have every reason in the world to be smiling a big ol’ sh*t eating grin right about now.

Your upstart MMA promotion – which most experts predicted would be dead within a year – is continuing forward into year four of operations. Among a veritable graveyard of MMA promotions that have tried to co-exist with the UFC, Bellator is the only one Dana White hasn’t added to his tombstone yet. You have survived some shaky TV deals (to say the least) to finally land in the loving arms of Viacom. You have survived constant rumors of imminent financial doom. You have survived some downright scary live gate numbers.

And, like that old Sinatra song, you did it your way – and brought tournaments back into the discussion in “mainstream” MMA.

So congratulations to you. Unfortunately, Bellator still has a few things on its plate to deal with. It might not be 99 problems, and I don’t think a b*tch is one, but there’s still some serious obstacles facing the not-so-upstart promotion.

Here, in no particular order are the 5 biggest problems that have Rebney reaching for the Advil (and the Jack Daniel’s to wash it down), starting with…

No More Eddie Alvarez as Champion
For about an hour on the night of the 19th, Bellator had one helluva upside to longtime Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez’s crushing loss. Namely, said crushing loss was a surefire contender for “Fight of the Year”.

Then Hendo vs. Shogun happened, and the MMA world pretty much forgot that Bellator even existed.

Talk about bad timing.

The loss of Eddie Alvarez as champion, especially to an (almost) unknown like Mike Chandler, was a blow to Bellator. He was the only guy in Bellator with a legitimate argument for a world top 5 ranking in his weight class. He was Bellator’s longest reigning champion. He was a pillar of their promotional strategy. He walked on water, healed lepers, and ate pollution and crapped Corn Flakes. You know the drill.

A solidly run promotion should be able to survive the loss of a high profile champion – and I think Bellator will – but it is a blow not to be underestimated. The UFC’s Light-Heavyweight division, considered the marquee division of the UFC, still hasn’t recovered from losing Chuck Liddell as champion. Time to start pushing the hell out of Mike Chandler – and find a way to get Eddie Alvarez an immediate rematch without breaking your “no gifted title shots” rule.

Eric Prindle’s Balls
Forgive the crude language, which I unfortunately intended all too literally. Anyone who say Bellator’s season finale Heavyweight clash knows what I’m talking about.

In said final, Team DeathClutch fighter Eric Prindle took on Thiago Santos (who only needed to add “Silva” to his name to be the most stereotypical Brazilian name ever). The fight lasted a scant minute and a half – just long enough for Santos to get Prindle down, create space, and toe kick him in the berries so hard it literally stopped the fight.

Who’s getting the next crack at champ Cole Konrad? As of now, nobody is.

Yet again, we have a layer cake of frustrations for Bjorn Rebney. Now his HW champ has to sit on the shelf even longer, while Prindle and Santos rematch each other in a (hopefully) less damaging encounter for Prindle’s future children.

What’s worse, though, is the sour note it ended an otherwise awesome season on. Only days removed from the epic Alvarez/Chandler war and the last impression we leave viewers with is Eric Prindle holding his junk and trying not to throw up.

No Spike TV Until 2013
The best news to come to Bellator this year might have been their partnership with/acquisition by Viacom, the media giant behind MTV2, Spike TV, and just about everything else you see, hear, read about or watch explode on TV. This meant that Bellator was headed from television purgatory (otherwise known as Fox Sportsnet) to relative stability.

But let’s be real here – MTV2 isn’t exactly television utopia. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but in terms of general viewership and profile, it’s not exactly lighting the ratings charts on fire. “Niche” is the word that comes to mind when I think MTV2.

So really, it works fine for Bellator, at least for now. But we all know the plan is for Bellator to move onto Spike TV now that the UFC is headed to Fox. There’s just one problem: by the terms of the UFC/Spike TV deal, the channel can’t air other MMA programming until 2013.

This could really end up kneecapping Bellator. While the UFC explodes onto network TV next year, Bellator will be forced to grind out another year on MTV2, while the network they aspire to be on is forced to play UFC reruns as counter-programming. Not exactly an ideal situation for Bellator.

The UFC is Suing You
Oh yeah, and speaking of the world’s biggest MMA promotion, they seem to be causing another headache by Bellator. Namely by suing the holy crap out of them.

As for what the suit is really about – who knows, outside the lawyers? We heard it has something to do with agent Ken Pavia leaking “confidential material”, likely legal documents of some kind, to Bellator. When the UFC got wind of it, they hit both Pavia and Bellator with a suit.

So who’s going to win? It doesn’t matter. For every day this suit drags on, the UFC wins. They’re a huge, multi-million dollar company with tremendous legal and financial resources. Bellator has nowhere near that kind of muscle at it’s disposal.

This strikes me as just a business tactic from the UFC and a smart one at that. Forcing Bellator to contend with a damaging suit distracts time and money from other areas – like fighter payroll, like event production etc – where the fledgling promotion could really use it. In a long war of attrition, there’s no doubt that Bellator will come out worse for wear, assuming of course the UFC’s case isn’t paper thin.

The UFC has worn down many an enemy with their army of lawyers (looking at you, Randy). Bellator may end up being no different.

Superfights” are Killing Champion’s Cred
Ok, so you have a promotion where title shots are given to tournament winners only – no gifted shots, no arbitrary matchmaking. “Where title shots are earned, not given” is what it says on the poster, after all. Still, you need something for your champions to do while this tournament is going on. Hey, I have an idea – let’s put them in main event fights, only the belt isn’t on the line. Then these “superfights” can stand in until our tournaments are done and we can have another title fight. Hurrah! Pop the champagne!

Only one problem with that theory – if your champion loses in the weight class he’s supposed to be champion of, well, let’s say it seriously degrades you in the “credibility” department.

Look at Christian M’Pumbu, the Bellator Light-Heavyweight champion. He recently lost a non-title “superfight”to Travis Wiuff, a man making his Bellator debut. So now what? What does that thin strap of metal and leather over his shoulder even mean? Can anyone, even inside Bellator, seriously claim that man is the best at 205 lbs?

Superfights like this damage the credibility of your world titles, which are the focal point of any MMA promotion. But again, the only way around it is to throw out (just every once in awhile) the “no gifted title shots” rule and let the belt be decided if the champ is stepping into the cage.

Besides, the tournament winner still gets a huge cheque and a title shot, so it’s not like they’re chopped liver.

8 Responses to “ Bad News Bellator: Breaking Down the 5 Biggest Problems Facing Bellator in 2012 ”

  1. Billy Smith says:

    dont hate

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  2. Alvarez losing was potentially great for Bellator. It established Chandler as a top lightweight and will allow Alvarez to be part of the tournament. So intead of seeing Alvarez in one title defense, Bellator has him for three fights (if he wins the tournament) and setup a big rematch with Chandler.

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  3. evmister says:

    ^agree. Should be awesome to watch Alvarez in the tournament, work his way back up

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  4. Tyler Davis says:

    Great article

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  5. Mike Davis says:

    I think Hector Lombard was and still is considered a top fighter over Eddie in his weight class. The superfights I do agree with though, I hope Bellator just keeps up and does not die out. Those non Championship bouts are crap.

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  6. James says:

    Uggghh where to begin.

    For starters Michael Chandlers being lightweight champion is a GOOD THING for MMA. At the start of 2011, nobody knew who that guy was and now he caught the eye of many fans with the fight of the year performance, and being the champ. Thats what Bellator does best, build talent within. There are some guys currently fighting in the UFC with terrible records and fans don’t have a CLUE about them.

    Eddie Alvarez being in the tournament again is a GOOD THING for MMA, more people will tune into the next LW tourney and yes the champ lost his title, but isn’t there an element of intrigue now that he’s in the mix with the likes of Patricky Pitbull ?

    As for the heavyweight final, everyone was dissapointed but thats not Bellators fault. That stuff happens in MMA all the time. Season 6 is starting up in 2012, they could have that fight on one of the first cards and get Cole a fight shortly after that. You make it sound like these guys wait forever, do you forget they’ve fought IN THE TOURNAMENT with hardly anytime off ?

    As for the TV deal, if Eddie Alvarez is fighting in the lightweight tournament and some nobody is fighting on the Ultimate Fighter, as hardcore fans what would you tune into first ?? Not being on Spike is not the worst thing in the world. They are still getting 200,000 plus numbers which is a decent enough number.

    The “UFC is suing you” argument well do you think Viacom would have purchanced Bellator if they really felt the UFC was going to win a huge lawsuit ? Techically Bellator has more backing than the UFC does in terms of finances anyways

    Finally, I’m sick of fans ragging on the superfights. Rules are rules, you need to WIN the tournament to fight the champion. Whats the difference if an XFC featherweight champion fights for a different promotion and loses ? Its the SAME THING. It keeps the figthers active, and if you’re doing your math, Bellator champions were 12 and 1 in superfights, sorry M’Pumbu !

    People need to realize Bellator is number 2 in MMA by a longshot.

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  7. TK says:

    Well said, James. I would consider myself a “hardcore fan,” and I find Bellator much more exciting to watch and follow than the UFC. I have watched every show since inception, and the TV deal with the Score makes it accessible and easy. Sure, the one-sided “superfights” are not a high point, but the combination of “name” fighters and local talent on the cards always makes for a solid night of fights.

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  8. Elton Hobson says:


    You seem to have misinterpreted my article a bit. I’m not “ragging” on bellator for anything other than the whole superfights thing, which I respectfully disagree with you on. Other than that, the rest of those things are really no one’s fault. They’re just potential problems for the promotion in 2012. I even complimented bellator’s progress at the start of the article.

    Saying Mike Chandler as champion is a plus for Bellator is like saying Fedor getting triangled by Werdum was a plus for Strikeforce. Sure, a new star was born, but an older, MUCH bigger star was lost. Will there be interest in seeing Eddie in the tournament? Yeah, sure, a tiny bit. I guarantee you it is FAR less interest than there would have been in an Eddie Alvarez vs. Shinya Aoki fight, which likely would have happened had Eddie won.

    Also, Eddie was a legit top-5 guy at LW. His loss means that all of bellator’s “champions” are ranked outside the top-5 in the world in their respective divisions, hurting the promotion’s credibility a tad.

    I wasn’t blaming bellator for the Prindle ball kick. What are you even talking about?

    And yes, “hardcore” fans will be watching Eddie Alvarez on MTV2. The rest of the world will be waching TUF, to use your example. Not sure what that proves, really, or how it has anything to do with what I said. And if you think bellator (or Viacom) is happy about UFC exploding onto network TV while bellator languishes on MTV2, well, I don’t know what to tell you man.

    Superfights suck. They sucked in Pride, they sucked in Strikeforce, they sucked everywhere. There’s a reason the UFC never has one of their champions fight a fight at the weight class they’re champion in without the belt being on the line. Ever. Unless someone misses weight or w/e. Why do you think that is.

    I appreciate you reading my article and offering a strong rebuttal, but you are seriously out to sea on some of these things.

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