- Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The ratings for Bellator 86 are in, and they are not good. Multiple industry sources report that Bellator 86 pulled in 812,000 viewers, which is a drop from the 938,000 it had the week before. While a near 15 percent decrease in viewership may not seem like much to most MMA fans, this has to be devastating news for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney.
Leading up to Thursday’s fights, Rebney often discussed his high expectations for Bellator 86. During a Jan. 9 press conference, Rebney stated, “With a welterweight world title fight, the debut of King Mo [Lawal], and a stacked welterweight tournament, January 24th is going to be a huge night.”
Unfortunately, for Rebney, MMA fans did not share his excitement of seeing Ben Askren, Ben Saunders, and Lawal showcased on the same card.
These mediocre ratings will surely continue their downward trend. By stacking the deck and putting all of his big-named fighters on the season’s first two cards, Rebney is in a situation where the vast majority of his recognizable fighters are out of action for a several months. Even worse, next Thursday’s Bellator 87 is by far the weakest card of this season’s first three. This will likely result in an even bigger drop in ratings next week and more bad press for the organization.
I don’t fault Rebney for trying to hype up his promotion prior to last Thursday’s event. Rebney’s job is to promote his brand and remain upbeat about its outlook. However, he and Spike TV definitely had expectations that were too high for what Bellator could deliver, even with their most marketable fighters stacking the same card.