Bellator in the UK: A Halfhearted Effort?

Bellator heads to London for its 179th show on Friday the 19th of May, which features a number one Welterweight contender contest, an All-British Light Heavyweight bout, and a rising homegrown Welterweight Brit.

In the Main Event; Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley (39-14-2) faces off against one of the best Welterweights in the world Rory ‘Red King’ MacDonald (18-4). In the Co-Main Event British stars Liam McGeary (12-1) and Linton Vassell (18-5) clash, both looking to make a run for the Light Heavyweight crown. With some great fights sandwiched in the middle, On the main card is British Welterweight prospect and rising star Alex. Also on the main card is British Welterweight prospect and rising star Alex Lohore (11-1) facing off against fellow British fighter Dan Edwards (14-14).

With a great Main card and a very solid undercard; it could be a huge night for Bellator MMA as they try to make a big splash in the UK and Europe after successful outings in Dublin and Belfast. So why is it that Bellator is willing to put on these good shows without really promoting the fighters within them? Let’s discuss:

The British Fans:

The growth in casual and hardcore MMA fans in mainland Britain and Europe is rising rapidly. The Brits are craving more and more MMA, and consistently so. Consequently, when Bellator comes to the UK you can imagine the anticipation that builds around fans to be large? That would be incorrect. Apart from well informed MMA fans, who know anything from amateur regional upwards, the word barely gets out about the European Bellator events. People take a look at a poster, see that it’s not the UFC and walk away.

With the depth in British talent and the  ‘should be’ household names on their roster, Bellator MMA have really lacked a promotion push for these fighters.

For example, Liam McGeary; former Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion should be known by every British MMA fan. However, you peel the skin of the small hardcore circle and people have no clue who he is. A fighter who has previously beaten Tito Ortiz should be used as a poster boy for British MMA for the ever-growing promotion.

Although a few more people know him, another example of this is Michael ‘Venom’, Page. At thirty years old, MVP is a 12-0 crowd pleaser, who is stylish, flashy and always uses a variety of remarkable striking techniques, that should make him a mainstream fan favourite. A fighter of this caliber hasn’t been promoted to the fullest capabilities of Bellator MMA; especially considering how easy he would be to promote, especially to a thriving MMA scene in Europe. Compare a similar style fighter to MVP in Marc Diakese, In the UFC. Fighting all of his fights in the UFC so far in the preliminaries, it is dumbfounding to think Diakese is probably better known to the newer fans of the sport.



In Comparison:

Two American fighters both set to make the MMA debut with the company have seen a much different side of the coin.

American Freestyle Wrestler Aaron Pico has had the help of every ounce of Bellator’s promotional weight ahead of his MMA debut. It is confirmed for June 24th, at Bellator NYC, the PPV portion on the same night as the Bellator 180 show. Pico Being very well known in America already because of his wrestling exploits helps and makes it easier to get exposure and air time, which has amounted to Pico getting far more of a push than already well-established British fighters, Without even stepping into the cage and proving himself. Pico is seen as a blue chip prospect, and we keep being bombarded with notifications to support him.

The other, Dillon Danis, has had a lot of promotion, to be fair a lot of it down to his inclusion in Conor McGregor’s camp and trying to stand out via social media. Without confirming any date for a debut yet, Danis has competed in grappling matches, one as recently as Sunday when he was defeated by Jake Shields.

Even without a confirmation date, Bellator seems happy to promote him some more.


TV Exposure:

Partly to blame for the underselling of British fighters is the Television Exposure they receive on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

The current UK Television deal for Bellator means it is impossible to catch any live Bellator action with preliminaries completely unavailable to those in Europe. Even for the London card, there will be a 1-hour tape delay. With many fight fans only wanting to watch live action it makes it increasingly difficult to grow a fanbase, where apparently Bellator specifically wanted to grow it.

But it’s not only Television. Everything in the media coverage for their British fighters is lacking, including online video content similar to UFC’s Embedded keeping up to date with fighters on fight week. But maybe that’s a global concern for Bellator. Maybe it’s because of the UFC’s power and media coverage, but at any opportunity, Bellator should try and appeal to all audiences, not just their American ones.

With some excellent fights on the show, this could have been the perfect opportunity to take advantage, to show all of the British and European audience what the Bellator brand is and who these fighters are.


Numbers game:

I suppose the proof will be in the numbers, come Friday the 19th, if they have promoted the event well enough. What do you think of the way Bellator promotes it’s British and European talent?

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