Now unlike the question what is the UFC? whenever i hear someone say what is Bellator? I always know that it is highly likely that this person has already heard of the UFC and MMA in general, and someone (likely a hardcore fan) has said they should look into Bellator as well.
Bellator is essentially the second largest mixed martial arts organisation in the world currently behind the UFC – so in a nutshell Bellator is the UFCs biggest current “rival”, which is hard to say because the UFC have had a monopoly on mainstream MMA since they swallowed the Japanese based Pride organisation back in 2007, as well as Strikeforce and WEC. But here at the MMA Gateway, you are at the right place to find out exactly what is Bellator, and everything that goes into Bellator –
Bellator Fighting Championships, or Bellator MMA as they are now called, was started in 2008 by chairman and CEO at the time Bjorn Rebney. Intitally Bellator focused on a tournament structure with its “toughest tournament in sports” tagline – This tournament structure was a single elimination format, whereby the winner of an 8 man or 4 man tournament was awarded $100,000 as well as a guaranteed title fight against the champion of their applicable weight class.
in December 2011, the media giant Viacom obtained a majority stake of Bellator, then as of January 2013, every Bellator event began airing on Spike TV. Bellator assembled 25 live events annually until 2015, as well as other programming such as fighter features, highlight reels, and reality TV shows like the successful “Fight Master” show.
In May 2014 Bellator hosted their first pay-per-view event from the Landers Center. The event featured a Light Heavyweight tournament final fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and King Mo, Michael Chandler vs Will Brooks in a lightweight interim title bout, Alexander Shlemenko vs Tito Ortiz, a feature fight between Rick Rainey and Michael Page, as well as season 10 Heavyweight tournament final Aleksander Volkov vs Blagoi Ivanov.
Bellator has the same rules as the UFC, and therefore adheres to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, which were first established in April 2000 –
Groin strikes, eye gouging, kicking or kneeing a grounded opponent, strikes to the back of the head, biting, headbutting or grabbing the fence are illegal. If these rules are breached with impunity during a contest, the referee has the right o take a point away from the fighter or even disqualify them if the infringement is particularly severe.
The Scott Coker Era:
On June 18th 2014, successful MMA promoter and Strikeforce founder/CEO, Scott Coker was named as the new president of Bellator MMA, replacing founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney (to the delight of many MMA fighters). Rebney had built up a reputation of being difficult to deal with regarding contract negotiations with some fighters, for instance current UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, and current Bellator Light Heavyweight King Mo, have never had very nice things to say about Rebney.
So the Coker takeover has gone down as a major hit with the MMA community in general, considering his previous success with the excellent Strikeforce promotion. Since his appointment to presidency of Bellator, Coker has already made some massive changes to the company structure –
- he has abolished the 8 man tournament structure, opting for smaller 4 man tournaments in a short window, as well as a more pay-per-view approach, by creating more “spectacle” events and feature bouts that sell pay-per-views.
- He has made some massive signings for Bellator, by signing high calibre fighters from the UFC, with acquistions like: Cheick Kongo, Phil Davis the late Kimbo Slice, Rampage Jackson, Matt Mitrione, Wanderlei Silva, Benson Henderson, Rory Macdonald, and most recently Chael Sonnen.
- He has recently as of this year started introducing “Bellator Kickboxing” bouts in amongst the standard Bellator MMA bouts.
- He has introduced more weight classes such as the 135 pounds Bantemweight, through to 265 pounds Heavyweight.
- He secured a partnership with Rizin Fighting Federation, for the Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix event held on December 29th and 31st 2015, where Fedor Emelianenko and Mo Lawal were the main and co main events respectively.
Ever since January 2013, Bellator and Bellator related content has been available to view on Spike TV, and on September 24th 2013, Bellator secured a deal with FOX sports Latin America, which makes FOX sports the exclusive conduit for Bellator throughout the entirety of Latin America airing in over 50 Million homes.
In February 2014 Bellator secured a deal with OSN, the leading pay-TV network in the Middle East and North Africa.
Bellator is also available on Eurosport through a lot of European countries through their “Fight Club” brand, as well as a partnership with Russia2 (Russias largest fight network) airing to over 83 Million people, as well as partnerships with Viva in the United Kingdom, TENplay in Australia, and Celestial Tiger Entertainment in Asia.
In conclusion it has to be said that Bellator has nade huge strides since its inception in 2008 – it is a long way from being on par with the UFC, due to the level of fighters the UFC has, but they are growing everyday. From my perspective it is healthy to have options with top class MMA viewing, or anything else in this world for that matter.
With more UFC fighters becoming disgruntled with their pay sturcture since UFCs partnership with Reebok in 2014, and the recent sale of the UFC for $4 Billion to WME-IMG, Bellator MMA are filling a void in the sport.
Thanks to Bellators growth, more UFC fighters are seeing out their UFC contract and testing the waters of free agency. Most recently Benson Henderson, Rory Macdonald and Chael Sonnen have all secured themselves lucrative contracts from Bellator that they could not get from the UFC.
If we see more marquee signings in the rest of this year, 2017 and beyond, more growth of the promotion as a whole, then who knows in a few years we may be talking about Bellator having a roster/promotion on par with the UFC, so its safe to say that the future looks bright.
Stay tuned for more posts regarding Bellator news, and please feel free to drop some comments below if you have any feedback or questions about this article.