By Seth Falvo
By now, you’ve all heard the news: The main event of Bellator’s inaugural pay-per-view has been cancelled due to one of the headliners getting injured only one week out from the fight…again. Except this time around, Bellator isn’t simply moving the remaining card to Spike TV. Instead, Bellator is making Rampage vs. King Mo the new main event, having Michael Chandler fight Will Brooks for a completely meaningless interim lightweight title, moving Alexander Volkov vs. Blagoi Ivanov to the main card, and asking us to kindly fork over our money for this new line-up.
I hate to be pessimistic, but I really don’t think this strategy is going to end well for anyone involved.
The biggest problem with the “Alvarez vs. Chandler III-free” Bellator 120 is that there’s no hook. Every good pay-per-view has to be about something, and if “These two aging light-heavyweights used to really hate each other five years ago” is that something, it’s doubtful that too many fans are going to spend both their money and a Saturday night on it. The boom period for MMA on pay-per-view is long gone. If a new competitor is going to put on a successful pay-per-view event, it’s going to need a stronger product than UFC Lite — it’s going to need something to make it actually stand out.
So it’s in that spirit that I’ve decided to offer up a few last-minute suggestions to make Bellator 120 a more interesting card, to both the casual MMA fans and the grizzled diehards who Bellator is hoping to attract. All of these suggestions are at least a little crazy. Some are crazy enough to actually work. We’ll start off with what I feel is the most practical, then descend further into madness in no particular order.
Throw a One-Night Heavyweight Tournament
Tell Rampage, King Mo, Tito Ortiz and Alexander Shlemenko to forget about that pesky cut down to 205, and throw in Cheick Kongo, Eric Smith, Alexander Volkov and Blagoi Ivanov for good measure. Keep the original four fights as the opening round of the tournament, then air Michael Page vs. Rickey Rainey before the semi-finals and Michael Chandler vs. Will Brooks before the tournament championship bout.
Why It Would Work: The appeal of one-night tournaments has been obvious since the dawn of MMA (no matter what you consider that to be), and the tournament concept is consistent with everything Bellator already does.
Why It Wouldn’t Work: Well, let’s ignore the fact that this season’s light-heavyweight tournament will be decided by a heavyweight bout in this scenario, and instead focus on how this tournament would guarantee that at least one division’s tournament winner will go on to earn a title shot despite coming off of a loss. Also, anyone who thinks a one-night heavyweight tournament is a fool-proof promotional strategy has clearly never heard of YAMMA Pit Fighting.
On that note…
A One Night Open-Weight Tournament
Embrace your inner-Super Hluk. You know you want to.
Why It Would Work: This is the type of spectacle that practically sells itself to the hardcore fans who remember when staying up until 7 AM to find out that Sakuraba mangled his arm seemed like something a normal human being would do.
Why It Wouldn’t Work: This is also the type of spectacle that the Mississippi Athletic Commission would (presumably) frown upon.
BellaTNA: The Hybrid MMA/Professional Wrestling Card
Viacom has been forcing a strange Bellator/TNA partnership for the past few years. Why not promote a half professional wrestling, half MMA card when it actually kind-of makes sense?
Why It Would Work: At least TNA Impact has a built-in fan base that has demonstrated they’re willing to spend money on the company’s pay-per-view events. And besides, Bobby Lashley is currently on the TNA Roster, so there’s that, I guess.
Why It Wouldn’t Work: So, you expect TNA to announce its involvement in the pay-per-view on Thursday’s edition of Impact, hope that fans actually buy it in time for Saturday, and present it to an audience that paid for a show they assumed would only feature MMA bouts? TNA has made some boneheaded business decisions, but this would be a low point even for them.
On the next page: PRIDE, boxing, and the most obvious solution of all…