Ι ‘ve been reading and hearing that, perenial #2 MMA promotion Bellator has started to catch up to the MMA kingpin, the UFC. Is it true?
If i had to answer in one word i ‘d say yes but of course its not that simple.
First of all, the UFC is still miles away as a brand and as a promotion from Bellator and other competition. If you think about the reach they have in different markets, in the PPV game, the mainstream media that are following it, its a very different game between the two of them.
On the other side, its also true that today, Bellator has managed to slowly creep up to the UFC and its setting milestones that could never happen before.
There have been Bellator events that gather much more hype than some of the UFC events, even PPVs. The Macdonald – Daley event this May is one prime example, also the King Mo – Bader card will be pretty hyped for Bellator standards.
Then, Bellator 180 in New York, with the usuall Bellator veteran fights like Fedor vs Mitrione and Sonnen vs Wanderlei, coupled with nice contemporary fights like Larkin vs Lima and Chandler vs Primus, is gonna be lit and thats just 2-3 examples that come immediately to mind.
But the truth is that its not just Bellator catching up.
MMA as a global sport is becoming more and more decentralised. Where a couple of years back you had the UFC and then maybe Bellator and the rest where light years behind, now you see promotions in different markets gathering more and more hype.
Russia with EFN, Achmat and ACB, One FC in Asia , Rizin in Japan and older staples like KSW in Poland and Cage Warriors in Britain, play a much bigger part in the sport today. To put it down in numbers,
2-3 years ago, the MMA world paid 90% attention to the UFC 5% to Bellator and maybe WSOF and 5% to the rest of the world. Now its more like 70% UFC 15% Bellator and 15% the other promotions. Yes it’s not a huge difference but its obvious and the trend can easily grow more.
The biggest reason that this is happening is because of the UFC. The promotion has been changing the last couple of years, especially after the WME IMG purchase. The new company is trying to make a lot of changes and this transitional period has taken it’s toll.
The UFC banked a lot on a couple of superstars like Conor and Ronda and now that they are out of commission for different reasons, it has no new stars to rely upon, with the exemption of GSP who will fight only once this year, if at all.
Also, the new bosses seem to be trying to cut down on all expenses, trying to make their huge investmenet work out and we see top fighters opting to go to different promotions than resign. This is something that never happened before. If you left the UFC it was because they cut you. Also, take a look at UFCs youtube channel and you ll see much less traditional content being created.
So the UFC has weakened its talent pool and other promotions have profited for it.
A guy like Bader probably would have never been a UFC champ, but he has a very good name, a name that in other promotions can help them in more than one ways. If Bader wins the title and defends they have a legit champ. Some people will say that he cant compare with UFCs champs but it’s still a gain for Bellator.
But what if someone from their own roster rises up and beats ex UFCers like Bader and Davis? Suddenly he is a world beater, a top talent and since he has never lost in the UFC people cant discredit him using an older defeat.
Look what happened with Benson Henderson. He went to Bellator and tried to fight their Welterweight champ Andrey Koreshkov. The Russian fighter is not as well known and aside from the hardcore fans, most people thought that he wasnt at the same level. But in the fight Koreshkov demolished him and even though he already had a great record it was this win that brought him sizeable recognition.
Now Chandler defeated Bendo, the same Chandler who has beat Alvarez, which means now he has beat 2 ex UFC champs, so his stock is up.
The same thing might happen with Horiguchi in Rizin or Macdonald in Bellator, or even Larkin.
So is the UFC in trouble?
Maybe but its not as immediate as a lot of people make it sound. This transitional period took its toll but after they figure out the financial and management stuff the new owners will start reving the engine again, with a UFC thats new, with more opportunities to change and improve. This will be a chance for them to change the UFC which as a promotion, in my opinion had hit a ceiling.
They way the promoted their events and their fighters was great for the “dark” years but today its antiquated and far less productive. Proof? no new stars and a lot of lost opportunites. They keep using the same simple recipe for all their fighters and expect it to work for all of them. i set the camera in front you and i expect you to say something really interesting. It works for loudmouth, polarising characters like Conor but most of the fighters are not like Conor, but it doesnt mean that all of them are boring. Just not promoted correctly. But thats a big subject for a different video.
The UFC will have a chance to turn things around but we dont know what direction the new bosses will take. Will it be even more entertaintement or something different? Will we like it or not? but one thing is for sure, that the sport has changed globally and thats not going back.