Bellator’s First Big Mistake: Pay-Per-View

Bellator’s First Big Mistake: Pay-Per-View


For the last number of years Bellator MMA has been quietly chipping away at trying to create an opening for itself in the world of mixed martial arts promotions. In doing so, it has quite effectively established itself as the number 2 promotion on the MMA block.

A huge chunk of that success has been predicated on following in the footsteps of its larger competitor and making good benefit of the market awareness and promotion, which the UFC has created. Whether or not it’s been taking advantage of UFC cast-off fighters or sliding into to the UFC’s vacated network placement on SPIKE, the promotion has managed to take and make full value of whatever has fallen off of the UFC’s plate. Good for them.

From what they’ve been able to cannibalize from the UFC, combined with the talent that they developed on their own and as guided by the steady hand of the promotions president Bjorn Rebney, Bellator MMA has developed a slow and steady course of action for becoming a promotional rival to the UFC.

Of particular in their business plan and the thing that I credit the most for their success, has been an adherence to avoiding pay-per-views. In their place, the promotion has opted for a model which delivers high quality MMA to TV free of charge. It’s a formula that has not only worked for and provided success to Bellator, but also one that sets them aside from the UFC.

Sadly, Bellator is about to mess with their successful model.

This coming November 2nd, Bellator will take to the air-waves with their inaugural PPV and endeavour to monetize a market share, which they (obviously) feel they have built.

I think this is a big mistake.  

Bellator has made built its name on providing quality fights (for free), while featuring fighters that most fans don’t know and would never pay to see. They have augmented their ostensibly marquee-less roster with the occasional UFC name, but nonetheless, it’s still not a line-up that will sell to your average, run-of-the-mill, MMA fan.  

Even taking into consideration an existing fan base, of which I count myself as one, I don’t see the demand for Bellator PPV. Using myself as an example, I know I won’t be putting their November 2nd show on my cable bill and I won’t be going to a bar to watch it, either. Regrettably, if the card was on TV for free, as they always have been, then I would watch and gladly, so; as I’m sure a great many other MMA fans would have also done, including those that are not currently watching Bellator.  

As Dana White put it (paraphrasing)… “They can’t give that **** away for free (to many MMA fans) and now they want to charge for it? It makes no sense.” Regarding that assessment and taking into consideration where the promotion’s ratings sit currently and the fact that the brand is not on a significant network, one has to wonder whether or not White is correct in his analysis. Personally, I think he is. 

I think the mistake is compounded further by anchoring the top of their PPV card with two UFC castoffs, which is exactly what Ortiz and Jackson are. I believe it sends the wrong message to the MMA world, which is, that Bellator is nothing more than “UFC-Lite”.

I believe that if they were going to go down the PPV road, that it would have been wiser to have done so with a show which featured their own home-grown talent at the top of the card and not two older fighters who couldn’t remain relevant in the senior promotion.

Where Ortiz / Jackson would have made a “great” fight on SPIKE for free, it’s a pass when asked to shell out for it.

Bellator should stick to their original business model and fight it out with the UFC via free TV and continue to grow their fan base through that methodology, because fights like Ortiz / Jackson on PPV are not / is not going to get the job done.

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  • nochoice

    Doesn't look like a smart move indead!
    I hope that Bellator stays around of course, but going for ppv and headlining ortiz vs jackson doesn't do anything for me and many others!
    If Viacom is starting to lose money they will not keep doing it for long, they will addapt, sell or dump it. (or go up because of good money through ppv which looks like a farytale to me!)
    Btw Brian, your missing a U!

    • Brian Cox

      NoChoice, I'd like to see them stick around, too. The promotion has had more than its fair-share of fan trilling moments and really does offer a quality product, but they are not there, yet and whoever sold them on this idea doesn't understand the fan-base, IMO.

      Maybe…if they put it out there for 5 or 10 bucks, tops…maybe, some people might buy it, but at anything more than that, I think all but the ******** Ortiz / Jackson fans will give it a pass.

      The real shame is and there must be someone over at SPIKE's head-office that's bouncing their head off of the table over it, that this would have been a big draw on regular cable.

      Let's just say for the sake of the argument that the Ortiz and Jackson go out and have a Griffin / Bonnar TUF 1 type of fight, no one is going to see it. It will be a complete waste. However, if it was on SPIKE "everyone" would see it.

      This really is just a stupid business move and one I don't understand. I have a lot of respect for Bjorn, I think he's a great CEO and has done a wonderful job bringing the organization along, but this is a blunder; a big blunder.

      TY for the SP BTY.



    • Entity

      Yes, being indead is not a smart move indeed. 8))

  • enjoylife321

    First of all, one of rampage's big criticisms was being offered fights against wrestlers by joe silva that just want to hump your leg. Now he is headlining with his friend Tito who does exactly that. Tito looks to take it to the ground and ground and pound?? He won't stand with Rampage for three rounds.

    Tito Ortiz is a ground n pound guy but with all the back, knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, foot surgeries he has lost alot of that youthful power he once had. The last time i remember Tito doing something impressive was a quick sub win over Bader. Apart from that he has looked past his prime.

    Both these guys are about a pay cheque which is fine but will it be an exciting action packed bout ??? who knows ???

    • Brian Cox

      321, that's such a great point about Jackson and not wanting to fight wrestlers and now, here he is on a PPV fighting a wrestler. If it weren't so sad, it would be laughable.

      It is all about the pacy check…not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)

      • enjoylife321


      • Entity

        I did enjoy seeing Tito 1 second from subbing Machida in their fight.

        • enjoylife321

          @entity..Tito has had some hot flashes, but so too has my grandma..

          ooh no, i didn't go there did I?

          • Entity

            I can picture your granny suplexing you. 8P

          • enjoylife321

            in grandma knickers with saggy breasts beating me about the head…why not !

  • enjoylife321

    Bellator are definetly looking more and more like a UFC outfit. FIghtmaster for one has the hallmarks of TUF. In relation to PPV, free to air is the only way to go if you want to get people to start taking notice of your promotion when the UFC is so dominant. They might sell 200,000 PPVs but 2 million plus viewers may also tune out refusing to want to pay….I don't know if its the right time….I would concentrate on free to air cards unless they can put up floyd mayweather calibre fights.

    • Brian Cox

      321…and there's nothing wrong with being a UFC-Lite promotion over the next few years. It's a great business model.

      However, it shouldn't be taken to PPV air. That's just nuts in my opinion. Again, if it was free there's no way I'd miss it and I'm sure that would be true of a huge audience of MMA fans…but for cash? Someone over at Viacom and I'm sure this isn't Bjorn's decision is looking to cash in far too early and even then, I don't think they should ever go to a PPV model. I think the breakout success for whoever, will occur when it's simply on cable and the same way the NFL or the NHL is.

      Viacom should remember that the Ferttiata brothers lost $40 million, before they made a dime. Viacom needs to have patience and spend the money to build the business, if the wish to be successful. If they're not prepared to do that, then they are probably just wasting money and building a better carcass for the UFC to pick-over when Viacom casts off Bellator as a money losing proposition.

      • enjoylife321

        @Brian…and the biggest surprise is that ufc PPV have been on the decline
        and so many are already questioning the $50 price tag and over the hill comes the Bellator army. At the end of the day the biggest test as to whether the PPV is "would you pay for that card"??

        • Brian Cox

          …And I believe Enjoy, that more and more, the answer to that question is, no. The cards are over-priced. To me, the PPV should be cut in half and live event ticket prices, reduced.

          With the exception of true drama fights….Weidman / Silva…Henderson / Pettis….GSP / Hendricks…..CV / JDS….Weidman / Silva II and yes, Rousey / Tate II….there's not a lot of stuff that people are clamoring for and when they do, often the fight is a bust; MacDonald / Ellenberger… Davis / Machida…Maynard / Guida…Henderson / Machida…Henderson / Evans….all busts, IMO.

          For $25 I'll take the risk the fight's good and know that some on the under-card will be great. For $50….hmm…much more selective.

  • Entity

    The UFC needs to steam roll everything and bring 35$ PPV's
    Get that fan base back during hard times for many watching now days.
    H3ll, they have enough events now and thats about what they've been worth.

    • Brian Cox

      Entity, I'd agree with you, but even then…I think that's $10 too heavy. For $25, I'd probably buy them all. For $50 I'm picky, man. As are probably most.

  • enjoylife321

    @Brian@Entity……I'll pay $35.00 if the card includes delivery of a local pepperoni or Hawaiian large pizza. I'll even shout you guys a slice.

    • Entity

      Dont email it though, the cheese messes up my printer 8))

    • Brian Cox

      Enjoy…those are my favorite types of pizza. Go figure that you'd like the same.

  • fightgame

    And why is that a mistake? They need to start making big money, and some of their fighters are really good. I also like the tournament format, and the clear rankings (I simply hate how the UFC make fighters beg for fights, trashtalk for fights, etc. while at the same time DW pretends not to like trashtalking).
    The UFC has really bastardized MMA over the years and they have given fighters the wrong idea of how they are expected to behave, while mistreating them with one-sided contracts, low pay and a laughable ranking system.
    We need other strong organizations like Bellator building up their rooster in order to create some fairness for the fighters in the long run.

    • nochoice

      We all like Bellator to be strong, just see a problem with ppv making them weak!

    • Brian Cox

      FightGame…I love Bellator and I really like Bjorn Rebney, I think he's a really cool guy, but nonetheless, this is a poor business decision. They don't have the strength to do a PPV.

      Ortiz / Jackson would have been a great event on SPIKE (for free). As a PPV, it will be a bust and if you saw the two of them clowning around at the "press conference", it didn't bode well for it being a good fight.

      My call is few will buy this fight, where many would have watched it on SPIKE.

  • chaos

    Bad call, I don't think this is a good idea. I'm not a big fan of either fighter, but I would watch it on free tv for sure.

    I don't even think this would be a main event for a UFC on Fox card. It would probably be co-main event or something. They should focus on their own guys and build them up to be stars like the UFC was able to do with Silva and GSP.