Resurgence of Bellator MMA
For most everyone the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been the number one brand for mixed martial arts (MMA).
Some even go so far as to ask, “Do you even UFC Bro?”
For many MMA fans however, the UFC wasn’t the only place to find exciting fights.
There once was an exciting organization called Strikeforce where fighters like Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, Nick Diaz, and many other fighters who now fight in the UFC once threw down.
Many of the top fighters coming from Strikeforce are current champions, were champion, or in contentions of becoming champions in the UFC.
Strikeforce was owned and operated by Scott Coker who founded it as a kickboxing organization, then transformed it into MMA in 2006 with Frank Shamrock vs Cesar Gracie as the first promotional MMA fight. This fight would seal the new promotion in history as one of the best MMA organizations. Over time, Coker would put on massive fights that would change MMA forever. Bouts like Ronda Rousey vs Meisha Tate, Melvin Manhoef vs Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley vs. Nick Diaz, Tim Kennedy vs Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier vs Josh Barnett, and so on.
Eventually Coker sold his promotion to Zuffa, owners of the UFC. Everything that could have gone wrong in the sport of MMA, particularly with the pastime being so new, happened one night on CBS; the infamous Diaz Clan vs Jason “Mayhem” Miller brawler on live TV. Investors thought MMA was a dying interest so all the people involved with Coker backed out.
Fast forward to July 9, 2016, UFC 200; Zuffa trying to sell the company to WME IMG and Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt happened.
It was obvious to MMA fans, this fight was setup purely for the purpose of increased ratings and pay-per-view buys, and clearly not for the the sport of MMA. It was merely a spectacle to get the ratings they needed to acquire their $4 billion and ride off into the sunset.
Lesnar won that night and then popped hot for performance enhancement drugs. Hunt felt as if the UFC didn’t care about the cost long as they got the ratings they needed to get the sell.
If true, their plan worked and Zuffa sold the company to WME IMG as intended, and for those of you who don’t know, WME is an entertainment company not a fight company. This is where the sport I love becomes WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)—where your mouth gets you further than your fists.
If you want big fights or even a shot at a title, you have to be able to sell PPVs’ and have a ton of paying fans just like WWE.
Entertainment vs. Rankings
Now, let us discuss last weekend’s UFC 210 PPV. Gegard Mousasi fights out his contract and is on the hunt for big money, thinking he deserves a raise because of his impressive win streak. Just so you know, Mousasi came from Scott Coker’s Strikeforce and is looking to test the free market.
Also as of this Saturday, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza becomes a free agent and is also one of Scott Coker’s former Strikeforce fighters. Jacare has stated that if he doesn’t get a championship fight after this Saturday, he will retire or test free market, and it appears that Coker has interest. From listening to a few podcasts, I have heard that Cris Cyborg has said “she doesn’t want to wait on the champion and is willing to take a fight just to end her contract.” She too is also a former Strikeforce fighter of the infamous Cyborg vs Carano fight.
It seems to me that since WME has taken over UFC, they have taken the purity out of the sport and have made it only about numbers leaving older fans thinking “what in the world is going on here?”
I personally am starting to lose interest in fighters only wanting money fights instead of hooking up #1 and #2 for title contender spots and that being the factor of who wins the next shot at the title.
Bellator is UFC’s competition and as a result of this recent trend we are seeing Bellator pick up many former UFC athletes, even high caliber ranked fighters. Leading the way was Phil Davis, and now other free agents are following him. Coker knows what we fans and purists of the sport want in MMA; It’s not these super money fights. I want to see Demian Maia fighting Tyron Woodley, but instead we get Demian Maia vs Jorge Masvidal.
I think if the stars align, the resurgence of Scott Coker with Bellator will happen. Also to mention, Bellator has Viacom behind them as well. Viacom provides the financial backing and they also have Spike T.V.
What Fighters Want
Fighters are able to wear sponsored products instead of wearing Reebok gear only.
Coker also, in my opinion, does what is best for the fighters. He listens to their needs and wants, and gets to know them personally. They are not just a number to him and, well, in the UFC if you are not Conor McGregor or Brock Lesnar, you are not hearing a peep out of them.
Look at Justin Wren, his ‘Fight for the Forgotten,’ project. I don’t think the UFC would get behind him like Scott Coker/ Bellator/ Viacom have to help him. I feel like Bellator could be the old UFC we all loved and focus on fighting and not entertainment and PPV sales. Sure, Bellator MMA will once again test the PPV model this summer, but it’s not needed.
I say within the next year or so Bellator will become bigger and better than UFC and we will only be watching UFC like some of us still watch WWE just to see WrestleMania; to watch the super fights like Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg, we don’t get to see all the time.
Just every once in a while it’s kind of nice to see, but stay true to the sport and your fans that got you to the show in the first place.