(MMA gets another PPV that never was)
By Matt Saccaro
When your dog is terminally ill, you put it down.
Officially, Bellator canceled the PPV because Tito Ortiz withdrew from the main event bout versus Rampage Jackson, and not because of the PPV’s dubious chances of success. But the result is the same as if they had just canceled it outright: Bellator saves face.
Ortiz’s injury and the resulting cancellation of the PPV were a godsend for Bellator. Why? Let’s look at the most likely scenario for what could’ve happened if Bellator went on with their PPV — both if Ortiz had gotten injured and if he hadn’t.
Scenario 1, Ortiz doesn’t get injured and the PPV goes on: What happens here? The show probably bombs with 10k buys or fewer. Viacom realizes that, like Dana White said, there’s no value in Bellator.
Viacom either pulls the plug outright or scales down Bellator from hopeful claimant to the UFC’s throne into something akin to the toughman contests on FX. If this happened, Viacom would keep it around because it’d get decent enough ratings for the pittance it’d cost to produce the scaled down version of the show.
Scenario 2, Ortiz does get injured and the PPV still goes on: Attila Vegh replaces Ortiz against Rampage (even though Attila Vegh was “injured” and had to pull out of a fight on this PPV previously). The PPV bombs even worse.
Those two scenarios are both terrible for Bellator. The PPV, Ortiz or no, was destined for Affliction-level failure. Making the card free on Spike was the best option (and was from the onset of Viacom’s acquisition of former UFC “stars”).
The casuals don’t know Michael Chandler (despite the fact that he’s the face of Dave & Busters). The casuals don’t know Eddie Alvarez. The casuals don’t know most of the other fighters on the card either. Putting the entirety of the Bellator PPV card on Spike will help build their profiles a little more, or at the very least stop people from forgetting about them.
Furthermore, Bellator can use Rampage like he should’ve been used: To help get more ratings on Spike to draw more eyeballs to Bellator’s stable of talented, non-UFC-washout fighters.
Bjorn Rebney said that they were going to book a fight for Rampage “literally as quickly as possible.” Hopefully for Bellator’s sake, that means it’ll be on free television (unless they’re planning on producing an ad-hoc PPV solely to showcase an old, slow, whining, lazy Rampage versus some random can). Rampage, being Bellator’s fighter with the greatest name value — yeah, I know, that’s not saying much — can draw more viewers to the younger, more talented fighters on Bellator’s roster.
Allow me to make a comparison to pro wrestling history: #2 promotion WCW hired Hulk Hogan after he had left the WWE (then WWF) because he was a star. That star brought viewers to WCW, viewers who where then wowed by some the undercard matches between young, exciting wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr, and Chris Jericho — wrestlers who many casual fans might not have ever seen if the older, established Hogan hadn’t brought attention to WCW.
Of course, Bellator Rampage Jackson is no WCW Hulk Hogan — who was still the biggest star in wrestling at the time. Nevertheless, Bellator will build greater name value for their fighters by showcasing their big UFC acquisitions Tito and Rampage on free TV alongside the young, hungry, talented fighters. Canceling the PPV has allowed them to do that.
The cloud of Bellator’s PPV cancellation doesn’t have a silver lining because the entire cloud practically is a silver lining.