Earlier in the year, while terminal companies like Affliction and EliteXC were busy making the kinds of business decisions that put them in the bread line, the Bellator Fighting Championships was quietly issuing a slick, no-frills product that developed a following based on clever viral marketing and a no-flow-chart-necessary tournament format. Spanish-language fans were recruited on ESPN Deportes; English-language viewers, perhaps a little slighted, followed clips on YouTube.
No giant dragons, no pro wrestlers commentating, and nothing much to complain about. Simple works.
Recently, some of that goodwill was deflated when word circulated that Bellator’s second “season” would be delayed from the fall until early 2010. Bellator co-founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney believes he has a very good reason for the stutter -- and it involves 150 million households.
Sherdog.com: You’ve confirmed the new season of Bellator will begin the first quarter of 2010. Delays are usually never a good sign. Why the pause?
Rebney: It really boils down to spending the necessary time to create the kind of TV alliance that would give us the largest possible distribution platform. There are a lot of pieces to the equation to keep the company working the right way, to make the cash flow positive, to ensure we don’t follow in the footsteps of the Elites and the IFLS and the Bodogs and Afflictions and others.
That’s what we’ve done. [The TV deal] is finished, it’s done. We’ll be announcing it very, very shortly -- in all likelihood, within the next 12 days. We have a situation set up now where we’ll be able to give over 150 million people each week the opportunity to tune in and watch what we’re doing, and that’s a very exciting thing.
Sherdog.com: Do you still plan on catering to the Spanish-speaking market?
Rebney: We are not turning our backs on the Hispanic market of MMA fans who supported us in the first season. You will be able to watch the show in both Spanish and English language next season.
Sherdog.com: One thing that fans were miserly about was the fact that the telecasts would usually be on a tape-delay. Are you addressing this?
Rebney: You’ll be able to watch Bellator season two live. There were a lot of issues at play that were reasons for the delay last season, but we’re not constrained by that moving forward.
Rebney: We’ve been working diligently to secure right kind of match-ups for our champions: Hector, Eddie Alvarez, Lyman Good, and Joe Soto. They’ll be fighting in the interim. They won’t be waiting until we crown a number-one challenger in the season’s tournaments. They’ll fight either in strategic alliances we have with other promotions, or they’ll be fighting at the beginning of the season in feature bouts, perhaps outside of their weight divisions.
Hector is one of those guys who desperately wants to fight all the time. We’ve been working to find the right kind of situation for him to fight before the season even begins. There’s a very high likelihood we’ll have something in place for him in the next few weeks.
Sherdog.com: What about the rumored woman’s tournament?
Rebney: One thing we’re trying to get our arms wrapped around for season two is if we can get enough world-class competitors together for a woman’s tournament.
Sherdog.com: What about including the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions?
Rebney: Season three is already scheduled for the summer. There won’t be any kind of delay between seasons. And with that, we’re going to need to fill in the heavyweights and the 205-pound guys. We might even go to 135 pounds.
We want to improve on the quality of every competitor in every single weight class. Every single guy in the class, you’ll say, “He could win it.”