Earlier this week, initial estimates pegged Bellator 120: Rampage vs. King Mo as earning 65,000 pay-per-view buys — a number that exceeded the basement-level expectations of most observers. But it turns out that Bellator 120 wasn’t just a moral victory. As first reported by Sherdog (and later confirmed by MMAFighting), Bellator’s inaugural pay-per-view card did over 100,000 buys, making it an unqualified success
Sherdog’s report was based on an anonymous source “speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release buy-rate data.” The source explained that the buyrate information will be readily available in Viacom’s SEC filings later this year.
In a statement released to MMAFighting, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney played it cool: “I won’t be discussing specific PPV buy rates, but what I can say is that with one of our main events falling out just seven days before our first PPV, a six figure plus buy rate is a good starting point. But, it’s just that, a starting point. My focus is to continue working with our partners at Spike to create the type of big event experience that we created on the 17th.”
The only other non-Zuffa MMA PPV to hit a six-figure buyrate was Affliction: Banned in July 2008, and that card featured Fedor Emelianenko, three former UFC heavyweight champs (Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Josh Barnett) and a host of other recognizable MMA veterans. Bellator hit 100k even after losing its main event. That’s kind of astounding. Rampage and Tito can still put asses in seats, I guess.
So what’s the ceiling for Bellator’s pay-per-view potential? With a stronger card, can they approach the 140k-150k range that the UFC has pulled for its least popular PPV shows? And if so, then what? Will 2014 be the year when Bellator can legitimately call itself a competitor to the UFC?