Bellator

Fun fact. Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport in the world today. With the help of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Mixed Martial Arts is GLOBAL. With the UFC hosting an event in Brazil as soon as this Saturday night. While it’s easy to credit the UFC for cleaning up the sport, adding strict weight classes and regulating the rule book. It’s easy to say that the since Ultimate Fighting Championship was purchased by Las Vegas’ own the Fertitta brothers, Lorenzo and Frank (for $2 million dollars) that the UFC is the sole reason why Mixed Martial Arts is in the mainstream sports news every single day. What gets lost in translation in MMA history is organizations like World Extreme Cage Fighting, Strikeforce, and Pride as those organizations helped bound together what the UFC is today.

But with anything where there is good, there is bad. In 2008, media giant Viacom and an unknown Bjorn Rebney created a new MMA organization. Most thought this was a copycat of the UFC. But in capturing my attention as a fan what the newest MMA organization did was go back to the future. “Bellator” which is a latin term for warrior started implementing in-fight rules very similar to the UFC. The new kid on the block wanted to bring back an old style of MMA. Tournaments. This was a style that represented what was the early days in the UFC. UFC 1,2, and 3 most famously. These three events gained immediate attention because the events were in the tournament style. Over time as the UFC entered its dark days. The Fertitta’s and Dana White realized that a change needed to be made. So Bellator’s initial logic was to grasp an audience that for the safety of the fighters and integrity of the sport this audience was pushed aside. Bellator brought them back. For a little while it was fun, but much like the UFC, Bellator dipped their toes in the tournament waters just a bit too much.

Now Bellator has branded itself with Spike TV with a card coincidentally this Saturday night the same night as UFC 198. To me, this event is the most legitimate event Bellator has put on in quite sometime. The main event clash is between two game and reputable fighters. Phil Davis vs Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. Both fighters have been among the best at 205lbs for the majority of their careers. Davis was top 10 light heavyweight during his stint with the UFC, and Lawal a former Light Heavyweight Champion in Strikeforce. But now as the title says let’s be real.

Bellator hasn’t always put on fights with as much legitimacy as Davis vs Lawal. Bellator has also been a promotion that has given 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th chances to extend a fighters lengthy career. Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, and soon enough Wanderlei Silva. In my eyes this needs to stop for a variety of reasons. First, these fighters are well past their prime. They should not be fighting anymore period. For health reasons and tarnishing what their career stands for. While it was fun in some ways to see the plot of the movie Sly Stallone and Robert De Niro movie Grudge Match actually come to life with Shamrock vs Gracie, once both men entered the cage my first thought was I hope this ends quick and in the least painful way possible for the sake of Ken and Royce’s health. Thankfully even in the most non entertaining way it did. Bellator should not put their fans or fighters in this position. This gives a bad look to a sport that has come so far from the dog days of the no holds barred “human cock-fighting” quote that Senator John McCain famously coined.

Shamrock vs Gracie was the main event, now onto the co-main event. Where do I start. Kimbo Slice vs Dada 5000. An internet sensation vs a guy that nobody had ever heard of… I honestly had no idea who Dada 5000 was and I have been a fan of the sport before the majority of my friends even knew what UFC stood for(they know it’s sad but true). But both men had one thing in common, they were in no shape to be fighting professionally. Maybe if they wanted to fight they could head back to Miami and fight in the backyard brawling circuit made famous by both men, but this fight will go down as the worst fight in the history of MMA and embarrassment to the sport. As it should. The man who “won” the fight (Kimbo) didn’t even land a finishing punch. The fight was won by the near death exhaustion of Dada 5000. A fight Bellator decided to produce nearly killed a man. Think about that. Whether the former Strikeforce President, now Bellator President Scott Coker realizes this or not. His organization at this current moment is not taken seriously and it really shouldn’t be.

Not only does Bellator need to move away from the Slice business and hopefully for the sake of his health we never see Dada 5000 fight again, but Bellator also needs to move away from the 40-50-year-old washouts of the UFC and focus on building their own brand. Putting Davis vs Lawal together is somewhat of a good start. Rather than being the number one option for a free agent leaving the UFC be the number one option period by marketing yourself as a brand that let’s fighters earn their own sponsorship’s unlike UFC fighters who are chained to the Reebok deal. Bellator has started this a little bit but only with fighters leaving the UFC (Matt Mitrione and Ben Henderson most recently). That’s not good enough, they need their very own talent. While talent is hard to find there is plenty out there. With many high-profile gyms the sport of MMA has, if I was Scott Coker, I would go to every big named gym and scout the talent. Bring the Shamrock’s of the world, the Gracies of the world, and the Couture’s of the world along for the ride to Jackson’s American Kickboxing Academy, Blackzilians, American Top Team, maybe even head to Ireland and check out SBG. There are hundreds of fighters looking to get a shot anywhere not just the UFC. Instead of using 50 year old fighters name recognition to bring eyes to your brand why not use these pioneers as talent scouts. Who knows the sport better than Ken Shamrock,Royce Gracie, and Randy Couture. Not many. One thing I know for certain is that Bellator has a long way to go, and if they continue marketing old fighters (Shamrock and Gracie) or 40-year-old UFC washouts (Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva). The promotion will be going no where fast. Bellator let’s be real. Get it together.

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