When it was announced today that media giant Viacom had purchased Bellator Fighting Championships, most of us probably overlooked the bigger picture of what the deal means to the landscape of MMA. At a glance, better financial backing and being on a more popular channel like Spike means better fights and bigger paychecks for fighters, but behind the scenes the scope of the deal is likely much bigger than we know and the aftershocks will be felt for some time.
Check out four of the biggest likelihoods that will come out of the purchase after the jump.
Strikeforce and Showtime part ways:
Before all of you business experts begin furiously typing that Showtime isn’t technically affiliated with Viacom, keep in mind that a majority of the specialty channel is still owned by media mogul Sumner Redstone, whose family also owns CBS and he still remains on the board of directors. As such, it’s unlikely that one of the networks under the Redstone umbrella would give a leg up to the competition, meaning that Strikeforce is likely dust in the wind by the end of the year.
MMA on CBS again:
There’s a very good chance that CBS was using Chuck Liddell‘s appearance on Hawaii Five-O this week as a litmus test to gauge the popularity of the sport with its viewership to see if signing with a promotion would be in its best interest. Although the ratings aren’t back yet for the episode, the fact that CBS’s PR department was pushing the episode to the MMA media pretty hard the past few weeks means they wanted the show to do well and were making sure it did. It’s no coincidence that they prominently displayed the ProElite cage and logos throughout Chuck’s cameo on the show. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and it would have been just as easy for the show to cover up the PE logo or use a generic cage, so there’s a pretty good chance that the promotion is on the cusp of that deal with CBS we talked about a few months back. Now that all of the cards are down, we can probably expect an announcement in the following weeks that a deal that compliments ProElite’s newly announced broadcasting contract with HDNet is in place.
Spike gets back into the MMA reality series game:
Although no easy task, there’s a good chance that we will see Spike pick up where they left off with The Ultimate Fighter and begin producing a new original series to go hand-and-hand with Bellator programming on the channel. The challenge will be coming up with something fresh and new that won’t get stale. Maybe they should take our advice and put both opponents for an upcoming bout in the same fighter house and let nature take its course.
Both Spike and the UFC have proven that they can be spiteful by attempting to sabotage the competition by airing replays of big fights as a calculated counter-programming measure. Dana White has said that he’s not at war with Bjorn Rebney, but since BR is no longer the primary owner of Bellator, all bets are off. Expect “The Baldfather” to switch to Berzerker mode like he did with Affliction and ProElite 1.0 when both promotions announced that they would be going head-to-head with the UFC. Things are going to get interesting shortly.
Worth noting is the fact that Spike still owns the primary broadcasting rights to a portion of the UFC library and considering that they aren’t planning on moving Bellator over from MTV2 until 2013, there’s a pretty good chance that they will be wringing every last drop of blood out of the contract before it expires.