(“Ay dog, just give it to me straight — am I the father or not?” / Photo via ora.tv)
By Matt Saccaro
Bellator 120 is a day away, but the MMA world doesn’t seem to care…unless of course they’re deriding the Viacom-owned promotion’s PPV endeavors.
People like laughing at Bellator. That goes for both fans and media. MMAJunkie’s Ben Fowlkes noted this phenomenon recently:
You make a fair point about the undercurrent of glee in the response to every new Bellator setback. It reminds me of the late IFL CEO Jay Larkin, who, when convening a conference call to essentially sound the death knell for that organization, bitterly remarked that it seemed to be the most interest the MMA media had ever shown in an IFL announcement. In other words, it’s not just Bellator feeling that sting. As much as MMA seems to recognize the need for a serious competitor to the UFC, it also seems to love to watch those contenders rise and fall. I’m not sure I know why that is, but I do know that, if you are one of those contenders, you don’t help the situation by complaining about it.
So I’m not alone in this; it’s clear that anti-Bellator sentiment is pervasive. But why?
Regarding fans, the sport and the sport’s chief brand—the UFC—are typically conflated. Most casual fans don’t know that MMA and the UFC are two different things. If it’s not UFC, it’s nothing; they’ll believe anything the UFC tells them without question. The UFC’s ability to produce stars might be lacking, but they’re as good at producing ideologues as they ever were.
However, this doesn’t answer why the hardcore fans hate Bellator. Hardcores often have an anti-UFC slant (they’re still mad about Pride and Strikeforce). So it seems only natural they’d be big Bellator supporters, especially since Bellator’s tournament structure purportedly reduces title shot chicanery that the UFC is infamous for. Except it doesn’t. They screwed Attila Vegh because he wasn’t profitable enough. They engineered the season 10 light heavyweight tournament for the most favorable outcome (King Mo vs. Rampage). Bellator went from providing something novel and refreshing to being a second-rate UFC clone. And let’s not even mention pushing an ancient, injury prone Tito Ortiz and a past-his-prime, embarrassingly disinterested Rampage Jackson as superstars.