Bellator-The Big Top
Having had the privilege of being a member of the press for Bellator’s trips to St. Louis, I love it when they come to town, but the promotion does have some head-scratchers though: Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice, Slice vs. “Dada 5000”, Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie III being a few. Match-ups like that make it tough to be a Bellator fan.
Shamrock vs. Slice/ Slice vs. “Dada 5000”: At 51 and 41 respectively, the bout with Slice was a joke from the outset. A legend in Shamrock, that I originally believed was fighting for the sake of his love of his sport, put on a performance that was so embarrassingly bad that UFC commentator Joe Rogan suspected the bout was rigged and I was forced to change how I view him fighting now. I have to admit that I admire Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson ONLY for the simple reason that he used brute strength and Youtube to eventually make his way to Bellator. I also admit that he will always have more combat skill that I, a simple college kid working my way into a position in sports media--but he will always be viewed as a “thug”/street brawler from the slums of Miami and anyone who has the gall to call him a mixed martial artist deserves to be laughed at until they are silenced. Yes, Kimbo beat a UFC Hall of Famer--but in no way should that make him more credible (due to age. If he had the skills of Randy Coture AND was the age he is, we'd be calling him superhuman just like Randy, but he doesn't so we don't.) Watch their fight at Bellator 138 and that should put in argument to rest. Slice’s next opponent, Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris is a clone with the same limited abilities but instead of Youtube, Dada was the subject of “Dawg Fight” available on Netflix. It was the same story, but the only heat that could be generated between the two has been an ongoing “He stole my look!” debate. There is a difference between an entertaining fight and a fight that’s comically entertaining. This is just a Godzilla vs. King Kong scenario (no that is not a compliment) to talk about at work on Monday. Shamrock vs. Gracie III: Shamrock vs. Gracie on the other hand I am slightly more intrigued to see for reasons that don’t need to be said if you know MMA. At it’s core, it’s a case of redemption for Shamrock after tapping to Gracie at UFC 1 and going to a draw at UFC 5. While I see Shamrock continuing with Bellator or indie promotions until hopefully (finally) call it a career, this HAS to be a one-off money-maker for Gracie. At least we’ll be seeing conflict resolution. There are also a few other issues that I think are hindering the company. Not being on pay-per-view: As far as I gathered from a Public Relations staffer at a Bellator 138 media function, the reason all Bellator events are on Spike rather than PPV is to give all the action live and free to the fans. I feel this should actually be applauded. Still, PPV tends to bring in bigger ratings and more profit, which will keep the organization around longer for those very same fans. The most important thing though is that if advertiser’s are supporting the product, it’s like that saying, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” UFC’s big names: I feel conflicted bringing up this next point, but Tito Ortiz, “Rampage” Jackson, Stephan Bonnar, Melvin Guillard , Shamrock, Gracie, Phil Davis, Cheick Kongo, etc have all proven that for whatever the reason, Bellator is the place to be….after UFC. Sure, some have contractual issues or differences with the company. Some are just looking to continue their career elsewhere or were cut. What bothers me is that Bellator’s present leadership seems to be banking on the name value of UFC veterans more than push their own “homegrown talent”: “King Mo” Lawal, the Freire brothers, Michael Chandler, etc...I’m not saying they don’t get pushed, I’m just saying Bellator could make their own true STARS. On the other hand, Bellator 145 in St. Louis didn’t have any big names on it in terms of UFC vets and the event had almost 1,500 less fans in attendance and did almost $20,000 less in gate profit. Attitude: While at the same Bellator 138 media function as mentioned above, a Bellator employee (who shall remain nameless) openly told me, knowing I was a member of the press, “We know we’re number two.” I hope this feeling is not company-wide and I wish Bellator continued success so that athletes have options. I don’t know if Bellator needs to go back to a tournament format or what, but in my opinion they are lacking something truly original to set them apart from the pack. Until they find that something, Bellator could just be seen as the land of “ Not-So-Super Fights.”