In an industry where the top dog has a stranglehold on the market like the UFC does, it’s pretty impressive when a second-tier promotion stays a float for more then a couple of years. It’s even more impressive that Bellator has survived for that period of time while having every single one of their events televised.
Despite the accomplishment of having longevity in a sport that has exhibited the idea of anything but that, Bellator still has it’s fair share of problems. The majority of them come from a financial and exposure standpoint, but one way to tackle the problems that derived from the MMA side of the promotion is by doing away with the championships.
The two significant problems that come to mind when discussing Bellator’s faults are the underwhelming time period the champion of weight division must endure while waiting for a challenger and the lack of star power in the tournaments. Both of those problems have a correlation with the championship belt.
Although it’s fun to have a title, in Bellator the championship is a hindrance as it limits the potential fights for the title holder to bums in non-title “super fights”, until his challenger has finally been discovered through the tournament format. The championship fight also happens once a season, and that fight takes away two of the top fighters in the division from the weight class’ tournament that season.
As result the talent pool of the tournament’s deteriorate and become less interesting to fans of the product.
(Take a look at Jimmy Lazenby’s take on the good and bad aspects of the Bellator tournament format.)
A league type of format would work in Mixed Martial Arts because there is a goal to work towards to in every season for the fighters. By getting rid of the championships Bellator could use that format to succeed. More emphasis would be placed on the tournaments and the talent level would increase drastically. The top stars in Bellator would also fight on a more consistent basis, thus creating a more interesting product to the viewer.
The “super-fight” idea can also be maintained, but this time it would legitimately be a super-fight. Without champions, Bellator could put together the best possible match-ups from the weight divisions that don’t have a tournament that season as the “super-fights”.
Another benefit of excluding titles would lessen the impact of the UFC taking away the stars of Bellator. When the UFC signs a free agent like Lombard, Bellator has to start from scratch and the championship is devalued, but without titles Bellator could continue to run as though the fighter that left had never been there in the first place.
Mixed Martials Arts is a sport of parity where anything can happen, and putting the best possible fighters in tournaments on a consistent basis would ensure that fighter wouldn’t dominate a weight division the way Lombard did. That’d prevent the UFC from signing a dominant guy that would hurt the rest of the division after the top star has been signed by a rival company.
Bellator has a good thing going for them right now, but I think that good thing can become great if a few things are changed, one of them being the elimination of championships.
Now a tweet from Jose Canseco.