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Bellator 74 On-the-Scene Report: MMA’s Scrappy #2 Tries Its Luck in Atlantic City

(Bellator 74 video highlights, via

By Sean Cunningham

Pride Fighting Championships. International Fight League. Affliction. M-1 Global. As each rival organization has been gobbled up or at least driven from American shores, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has inched closer to ensuring that in this land, “MMA” means “UFC.” The only thing standing between them and total North American domination is Bellator Fighting Championships. Bellator currently airs fights on MTV2 and in 2013 will shift to Spike TV, the cable network where the UFC dwelled before leaving for plush new Fox Network accommodations. With the UFC going through some growing pains — witness the cancellation of UFC 151 and UFC President Dana White calling his most promising star’s trainer a “sport killer” — it seems a perfect time to check in on the competition.

My girlfriend Maggie and I attended Bellator 74 at Caesars in Atlantic City. In general, Bellator treads a less-glamorous path than their rival, with upcoming events at Hammond, Indiana; Windsor, Ontario; Reading, Pennsylvania; Dayton, Ohio; and Rama, Ontario, while the UFC journeys to Minneapolis, Seattle, and Montreal and leaves the continent entirely for Rio de Janeiro and Macau. Atlantic City is common ground for both promotions, with Bellator holding multiple events there yearly and the UFC having returned in June after a seven-year absence. (Incidentally, with the rise of gambling in neighboring states causing local gaming revenue to plummet from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $3.3 billion in 2011, A.C. needs every MMA event possible.)

Growing up in Nevada and New Jersey, I attended a good number of casino fights. (It was a deeply wholesome childhood, filled with apple picking, fireflies, and demanding that the cocktail waitress bring me a Long Island iced tea while the dice were still hot.) The fights were divided into two categories: mega-bouts and ballroom events. Bellator 74 was a ballroom event, meaning a ring was assembled in the middle of a ballroom, chairs were put around the ring, and there you are.