Exit UFC, enter Bellator. Sort of.
Spike TV's broadcast deal with the UFC expired this year, and Fox stepped in with a seven-year agreement. That left Spike without the sport that helped bring it new viewers.
Bellator, the last man standing in the battle for a competitive MMA alternative to the UFC, announced Tuesday a deal that brings their prelim fights to Spike.com. Beginning Sept. 10, in addition to live fights televised on MTV2 for the main card, fans can watch the prelims live online from 7-9 p.m. during the 12-week run of Bellator's fifth season.
“They’re so synonymous with eveything mixed martial arts,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “When you’re able to announce a deal with Spike, it’s a good day for the company.”
Spike and MTV2 are owned by the same parent company, Viacom, so this partnership was about as obvious and easy to establish as possible.
“In Webster’s, under the definition of no-brainer," Rebney said. "There are some very simples ‘Yesses’ you do in business in your career, and this was one of them.”
During its time with the MTV Networks family, Bellator has the opportunity to work with people from Spike, to pick their brains and leverage their creative input on the Bellator broadcasts.
Rebney said Bellator has been producing their undercard bouts for the past three years as if they were going to be broadcast. That creates an extensive library of fight footage to be used in the future for highlight reels, DVDs and the like. It also makes this switch to live broadcasts on Spike.com rather seemless. The big difference comes with an actual formatting of the prelims to fit the time allowed.
“Now that we’re doing this as a legitimate show reaching a worldwide audience through Spike.com, you have to really format it,” Rebney said.
UFC broke ground in this area last January when it began showing prelim bouts live on their Facebook page. It has now become the norm for the UFC. Rebney said that the Sept. 10 prelims on Spike.com will not feature a live chat commenting system but that is something being worked on for later in the year.
“Fight fans have been coming to our site for years for great mixed martial arts clips and information,” said Erik Flannigan, EVP of digital entertainment for MTV Networks. “Now we are thrilled to provide them with action-packed live fighting each week.”