I have made no secret how excited I am to see Bellator (and Jade Bryce) transition to Spike TV in January. Not only will I finally get to watch the shows in HD, but the change from MTV2 will undoubtedly bring the promotion some much needed exposure. It was looking like Bellator was primed to capitalize on the move, as it began compiling some pretty cool promotional videos, and announced the “Vote for the Fight” online poll.
The poll allowed fans to select the first fight that would air on Spike TV as part of Bellator’s new welterweight tournament. Wisely, Bellator chose four guys who, for better or worse, are both well known and generally very exciting: Paul Daley, War Machine, Ben Saunders, and Douglas Lima. I thought this concept was pretty brilliant, and was a good way to generate buzz about the move to Spike. Fans having direct input in MMA matchmaking through online polls is a novel concept that makes perfect sense considering how much MMA die-hards love to do two things: (1) go online and (2) complain about matchmaking.
Unfortunately, as with most of Bellator’s final couple months of 2012, the wheels fell off the Vote for the Fight gimmick. During the Bellator 83 broadcast, promotion CEO Bjorn Rebney announced that the fans had voted for a fight between Daley and Machine to kick off the new era. He then announced that said fight could not serve this purpose, as War Machine had been injured in training and will be out until the late spring-early summer. While no one could have predicted an injury, and it’s not like you can fault War Machine, the fact remains that he hasn’t fought in an eternity due to legal problems and thus having a hard training camp was sure to put added stress on his body.
Of course Bellator could not postpone its debut on Spike until the Daley-Machine fight could take place, and War Machine can’t fight on one leg, so Rebney announced that the fight will have to take place down the road, while another fight took its place as the Spike TV kick-starter.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the other shoe fell over the last couple of days, when Daley was reportedly arrested in England after getting into a bar fight. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it appears as though Daley is barred from the U.S. in connection with such arrest, and faces two years in prison. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if not for the fact that none of Bellator’s events are scheduled to take place in England, so being unable to travel abroad is a pretty big impediment. As a result, Daley has been dropped from Bellator’s welterweight tournament, and the promotion’s first season on Spike just got a lot less sexy.
Hopefully Bellator doesn’t completely abandon the “Vote for the Fight” concept, because I think it is generally a great idea, especially in connection with the promotion’s tournament format. Perhaps Rebney will learn from this first attempt to find a better balance between “exciting and unpredictable” fighters and “guys who we can actually rely on to make it to the cage.”