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The Fight Wolff Explains Some of the Possible Method to Bellator’s Madness

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On Bushido Talk 16.5, Tommy ToeHold, Naya Rodriguez and John Hackleman all expressed puzzlement over what exactly Bellator was trying to do with fights like Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice. They called it a spectacle and none of them enjoyed the fight. They are right. It was a spectacle and it was not enjoyable to watch.

This fight was all about getting eyes on Bellator and Spike TV. Along with Kimbo and Shamrock, there was also former pro wrestler Bobby Lashley. They also wisely used some of their other more exciting fighters on the rest of the card. In the process they certainly created some new Michael Chandler, Patricio Pitbull and Daniel Straus fans.

What the Future might hold

There are several possible positive effects both short-term and long-term for Bellator coming from a spectacle like Shamrock and Kimbo.

If this were what I thought the permanent direction of the company was going then I would question what they are doing. Spectacles like these are like cotton candy. Once in a while the sugary sweetness is fine and enjoyable, but a steady diet of it and it would soon be horrible.

In the short-term for Bellator it got them a lot of attention. It also got them a lot of eyes. According to Dave Meltzer at mmafighting it peaked at 2.4 million. More impressively it did these kind of numbers  on a Friday night.

The only UFC event to top it this year is the Conor McGregor and Dennis Siver Fight Night. That event had the benefit of an NFL game lead-in and a lot of advertising.

Sponsors and their Dollars could mean better Fighters for Bellator

Those are the kind of numbers that advertisers love, and advertisers are one way that Bellator can attract more high-profile fighters. There are many companies that used to advertise with the UFC but because of their deal with Reebok are prohibited from the octagon.

Several of them like Dude Wipes have already started showing up on Bellator’s fighter’s shorts. With numbers like 2.4 million advertisers could easily start offering Bellator’s fighters significantly more money than they can make in the UFC.

It is unlikely that Bellator will start stealing the very top of the UFC’s fighters, but they could start taking some of their more popular and exciting ones. The ones that in the long-term could make Bellator one of the more exciting fight promotions in the sport.

The other area that they could really start to hurt the UFC is with the new young talent. Currently, the standard contract for the UFC for the average entry-level UFC fighter is $8000 to show and $8000 to win. They will also get $2500 from Reebok and some sweet Reebok gear. If they win the fight they are guaranteed $18,500 and if they are lucky they score one of the four $50,000 performance bonuses.

It would be easy for Bellator to work with several advertisers to put together packages that pay the fighters a more. They could easily guarantee them significantly more money from the advertisers and in fact offer more money then the UFC.

If Brendan Schaub is able to make $100,000 being on a PPV with less than 1 million buys, imagine what he could do fighting on a card with over 2 million viewers.

I would look for Scott Coker and Bellator to continue to sign some of the better young talent. I also think they will start attracting more UFC fighters when their contracts expire, or they will force the UFC to start paying them more in their contracts to keep them.

Sacrificing Shlemenko to Boost Tito

One other element that puzzled them was why they would use Tito Ortiz to destroy Alexander Shlemenko. At the time Shlemenko was their middleweight champion, and Bellator had him fight up in weight against Tito who went out and destroyed him.

It did seem like an odd fight to make since it seemed like Shlemenko had very little chance against Tito just based on the size difference. The fight played out exactly that way. Tito submitted him in the first round.

I think instead of trying to use Tito to build up Shlemenko it was the other way around. I think they were trying to build up Tito to set up this title fight at Bellator 142 against Liam McGeary. To me it looks like Shlemenko was the sacrificial lamb.

While Shlemenko was only thirty years old when he fought Tito, he entered that fight with 57 career MMA fights and since he is Russian who knows how many matches he had against bears growing up.

Bellator could see the decline coming. Even the doctor who sent Mark Hunt back out could see that Shlemenko was due for a decline, and used his middleweight title to show that Tito can still beat a world champion.

Tito needed the boost. He entered Bellator with a 1-7-1 record in his last nine UFC fights. Now, after his defeat of Stephan Bonnar to go 2-0 in Bellator, the former UFC champion is fighting for his first chance at Bellator gold.

With the recent news regarding Shlemneko’s three-year suspension, it is also possible that Bellator had heard some rumblings and rumors on him. He is also a big part of the Bjorn Rebney period and Coker certainly has shown no real attachment to him. It just makes sense that they would use him to build him Tito who is still a big name.

Shlemenko went out and lost his next fight and his belt to Brandon Halsey. It was also a first round submission loss.

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Next Spectacle is Bellator 142 and it could be their best one yet

The tournament aspect of Bellator 142 is a little crazier as it will yield the next opponent for the winner of Tito and McGeary. It has been awhile since a major MMA promotion has put on a one night tournament.

This is most likely something that came from Spike TV and Viacom who have seen the success of the Glory tournaments. It is no accident that this is the first cross-promotion between Glory and Bellator. To go along with the light heavyweight title and tournament for Bellator, there are also two kickboxing fights on the Spike part of the card.

One will feature Glory/Bellator middleweight Joe Schilling and the other with have welterweight Paul  Daley making his Glory debut.

Again, they are trying to get as many eyes on the card and in this case hopefully create new fans for both Glory and Bellator.

This could also make Bellator more attractive to the MMA fighters with strong striking backgrounds. Between Glory and the PBC a fighter could box, kickbox and fight an MMA fight in the same year. Schilling has stated he would like to try to do that and there could be others in the future.

One of the big reasons the UFC put in the non-competiton clause was due to Coker’s ability to build relationships with fighters. Remember, ultimately it was Coker who signed Fedor to Strikeforce. If Coker can continue to attract talent to Bellator that is the best chance to grow.

One of the best ways to do that is getting eyes on their product to continue to attract top sponsors. That will allow them to attract more of the better and exciting talent into Bellator.

Less about hurting the UFC and more about a stronger Bellator

They are unlikely never going to be a threat to takeover the UFC. They do not need to do that to be successful. Right now they are more minor league in comparison to the UFC and like the minor league teams they need to use some gimmicks to attract fans.

If they can bring a stronger roster of talented and exciting fighters they could become a stronger promotion overall. One that is closer to the UFC than it is now.

That is also exactly what the sport needs to grow and what the fighters need if they want to maximize their earning potential in the sport. They have short windows for their careers and they should be allowed to make the most of it.

With the current deal between the UFC and Reebok the door has been opened for Bellator. They look to be setting themselves to make a strong run at certain talented fighters. Spectacles like Shamrock versus Kimbo could be a quick cash grab – or it could be a part of a bigger plan. By the end of the year we should have a better idea of their true direction.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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