Bellator MMA is coming to virtually any internet-capable device near you.
The Viacom-owned MMA promotion announced Tuesday a distribution agreement with over-the-top streaming service DAZN, which exclusively will air seven fight cards per year on its streaming service. The deal is a multi-year agreement worth nine figures, according to DAZN CEO James Rushton.
“The partnership with DAZN is game-changer, we share so many goals and as they grow, we grow,” Bellator president Scott Coker said. “The DAZN deal is a big win for our franchise, the fighters and most importantly, the fans.”
DAZN — pronounced “da-ZONE” — also will simulcast Bellator’s remaining 15 events, which will air domestically on Viacom’s Paramount Network.
“This is a landmark day for Bellator,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network. “Bellator plays an important role in the Viacom portfolio of brands and is a valuable component of our company’s global live event strategy.”
Bellator’s first event exclusively airing on DAZN will be on Sept. 29 at SAP Center in San Jose, California. The main event will feature Gegard Mousasi defending his middleweight belt in a superfight with welterweight champion Rory MacDonald. A fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Wanderlei Silva — their fourth meeting — and the opening round of an eight-man welterweight tournament also will take place that night.
Launching its U.S. operation in July, DAZN is a live and on-demand sports streaming service run by United Kingdom-based media company Perform Group, which recently hired former ESPN president John Skipper as its executive chairman. DAZN currently is available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and Canada with American and Italian markets coming soon.
“This deal is really important to us internationally,” DAZN CEO James Rushton said. “It’s another fantastic premium rights holder that’s committed to us in the long-term globally, but more importantly here in the U.S., this deal enhances our fight sports offering in light of our launch later this summer.”
Rushton said DAZN is committed to providing an accessible and affordable price point upon its U.S. launch, but would not provide specifics.
“We’re going to hold off on announcing the price, the other rights, the marketing, all that other stuff, so you’re going to have to bear with us until mid-late July when we have the official launch,” said Rushton.
A streaming service could seemingly solve one of MMA fans’ biggest criticisms of Bellator — tape-delayed airings of international events — but Coker said it’s not a simple fix.
“That issue is an ongoing issue because we have so many different partners internationally and trying to keep 140 countries happy with time zones and broadcasts, so a lot of it is up to them as to when they want to broadcast it,” Coker said. “I will tell you this — the seven fights we’re airing on DAZN will be airing live all over the world for the fans.”
With more money coming in from DAZN, Coker believes Bellator will be able to continue adding talent and put on fights fans want to see.
“Over the past year or so, we’ve been able to add some big names to our roster — Gegard Mousasi, we have Rory MacDonald, we brought on some sizable names,” Coker said. “These are fighters that make sense for our roster and I feel are important for the growth of this company. We’re going to continue to do that, and with the DAZN investment, it gives us more of an opportunity to pursue the right fighters for Bellator. We will be aggressive. We will be smart. Some fighters will fit, some fighters won’t.”