Fights happened at Bellator 110 on Friday – as they are known to do at Bellator events – but the big news of the night came in the form of a fight announcement, one that involved lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez and his nemesis, Michael Chandler. The two will meet for a third time, a meeting that was inevitable given that their first two clashes produced the kind of crowd-pleasing seesaw battles that promoters often only dream about. And yet what was most noteworthy about the announcement was where the fight would occur: at Bellator’s upcoming pay-per-view on May 17.
Yeah, their “pay-per-view” event, which was supposed to happen last year, but didn’t because, well, maybe it had something to do with Tito Ortiz. Or maybe it had something to do with the cockamamie idea of Bellator doing a pay-per-view.
The fact is, the only other MMA promotion not named the Ultimate Fighting Championship to even taste moderate success in the realm of pay-per-view is Extreme Fighting, and their swan song was sung in 1997. Since then there have been such farcical attempts as those put forth by Affliction, the World Fighting Alliance, Moosin… the list of failures goes on and on. Only the UFC has made a decent buck utilizing the PPV business model, and after 20 years of the sport in the US, it’s hard to see someone else figuring out the recipe for the secret sauce this late in the game.
Why even float the idea of a pay-per-view? After all, Bellator has done well enough giving away their weekly product on cable TV – right?
Bellator has indeed done well, if you equate doing well with simply surviving. But when you must list your long-term goals for the quarterly meetings with the bean counters and financial backers, mere “survival” isn’t something you can put in a prospectus. Good business is about projections of growth, of anticipated earnings and viable revenue streams. And while Bellator has a master with deep pockets in Viacom, it still has to play by the rules. It has to show more than maintaining the status quo and the inevitable stagnation that brings. It has to set its sights on somehow making more money.
If Bellator’s mythical pay-per-view event ever does come together (and that’s a big “if”), will it be successful? Probably not, especially if success is measured in terms of buyrates and net revenue. But it has to try, and putting Alvarez vs. Chandler III on that card – a bout that by now we all know will be pure greatness – is the only logical choice they have before them when all their choices are laid out.
So let’s speculate – on whether there will actually be a PPV, on whether it will be successful, on whether you and I will even tune in when we see the price point is upwards of $40 and the UFC is counter-programming with some throw away Fight Night. Obviously, we can’t know the answers to these questions now. But at least we know why Bellator is doing it.
They’re doing it because they have to.