The move is a wise one, and the direction in which Bellator should go in order to succeed. The UFC is a juggernaut, head and shoulders above all competition. It’s nearly impossible to compete with the name brand and machine of Zuffa, and as John C. Reilly once said, “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with silver.”
There is a huge market for a No. 2 in MMA. Even before Scott Coker took over Bellator from Bjorn Rebney, the company met a degree of success. Their inaugural pay-per-view did 100,000 buys largely on the backs of Tito Ortiz, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and King Mo Lawal. While it’s nice to think that Michael Chandler and Will Brooks contributed to the success, they instead looked to benefit from the names of the older stars on the show.
Bellator’s tired weekly tournament format is now thankfully out the window. The company will never have the deepest divisions with standard matchups that draw in the manner that UFC does. The “superfight” format is one that can benefit ratings and buys, as well as maximize interest in their show. Needless to say, that’s something Philipe Lins vs. Austen Heidlage wasn’t doing as a main event.
Bellator has their hands on some unique talent — Ortiz, Lawal, Jackson, Sokoudjou and champion Emanuel Newton in their light heavyweight division alone. Bellator’s new business model will revolve around fights that make people take notice, as opposed to one’s they wish would make people take notice.
Ortiz vs. Bonnar isn’t going to be fight of the year. It’s not going to determine the top light heavyweight in the world, or even the 30th best light heavyweight in the world. Yet people are talking about the fight whether in interest or in jest, and that’s something Bellator has often lacked.
Bellator’s regime sees the big picture. Their new regime gets it — make fights that people care about instead of fights that people will never know about.