The ratings for Saturday’s MMA extravaganza – which saw UFC 180 go down at the same time as Bellator 131 and an installment of World Series of Fighting – are in, and the numbers don’t lie: two million sets of eyeballs tuned in to SpikeTV to watch a pair of aged UFC stars go at it, and that figure leaves both the UFC and WSOF in the dust.
Let the fact that Bellator beat out the UFC sink in for a moment.
Now consider this: It was Bellator, the clear number two MMA organization in the world, that beat out what has long been far and away the number one organization, and it was done via two very washed-up fighters as a main event. Other factors contributing to the feat included the channel Bellator was on (SpikeTV, compared to the UFC’s FOX Sports 1 prelims and 50-buck pay-per-view), the revamping of the Bellator product courtesy of Strikeforce honcho Scott Coker, and the oversaturation of UFC product we’ve been subjected to for the past couple years.
All three of those factors are huge – especially the last two, with Coker’s injecting some much-needed pageantry and spectacle into what was for years a stale product, and the UFC watering down their cards until their UFC 180 pay-per-view featured only a handful of recognizable names and a bunch of people we can’t possibly remember.
So what? So what if Bellator beat the UFC on one particular night? What does that mean for us?
Honestly, it means only good things for everyone. As the industry leader, the UFC has been able to push the boundaries in terms of what it can get away with (i.e., putting together a card stocked with no-names and expecting us to shell out dough for it). Saturday was a hard slap in the face saying it better rethink that strategy.
It also bodes well for fighters. Being on a show that was watched by a couple million means more opportunities for fighters who want to rope in sponsors. It also means there’s a viable option out there that doesn’t involve an Octagon. Ultimately, Bellator crushing the UFC on a particular night means the UFC will have to be better.
And a better UFC is an awesome UFC.