After months of rolling our eyes while trying to make sense of Bellator’s new “sign pretty much anyone the UFC cuts and pray that it boosts our ratings” business model, the ratings for Bellator 99 – the promotion’s first show as The MMA Senior Circuit – are finally in.
The show drew in 660,000 viewers, which is fairly impressive on its own, but even more so next to the 437,000 viewers that Bellator 98 drew in. Also significant, Bellator 99′s main event featuring Patricio Pitbull and UFC also-ran Diego Nunes hit a high point of 809,000 viewers, as opposed to the 595,000 viewers that Fight of the Year candidate Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brett Cooper managed to attract.
Now, how you chose to interpret these numbers depends entirely on who you feel like being cynical towards this afternoon.
- On one hand, you can view the ratings boost as a sign that UFC veterans like Vladimir Matyushenko and Houston Alexander – despite being well past their sell-by dates – can still draw in the casual MMA fans, simply because they’re guys that the casual fans have actually heard of. You can’t have two nobodies headline an event and then act surprised when the casual fans don’t tune in – even if said nobodies are two of the best non-Zuffa middleweights on the planet. Perhaps the same way that signing David Beckham caused casual sports fans to take Major League Soccer seriously, the UFC castoffs will get causal MMA fans to consider Bellator a worthy alternative to the UFC. Make that we as human beings value name recognition more than talent and potential whatever you will.
- On the other hand, if you only feel like being cynical towards Bellator instead of humanity in general, you can point out that Bellator 99 didn’t have nearly as much competition as Bellator 98 did. Bellator 98 had to compete against NCAA Football and NASCAR (don’t laugh, it’s true) for the casual sports fans’ attention. With that in mind, can we really pin Bellator’s improved ratings on Diego “I once lost to KenFlo you remember that right?” Nunes?