One of the most interesting promotions to appear on the MMA landscape in recent times has been the Bellator Fighting Championships. Launched in April 2009, their tournament based format has generated a great deal of interest from mixed martial arts fans, but has up until now only been available to view on ESPN Deportes (broadcast in Spanish) .
With it’s popularity indicating a broader interest than just it’s original Hispanic roots, there has been speculation for a number of months that Bellator (latin for ‘Warrior’) were seeking a new deal which would reach a greater number of homes in North America.
It now appears that their search has been successful as Bellator have announced a new alliance with FOX Sports Net, NBC and Telemundo that will see the promotion reach millions of new fans. The deal stands out not only as one of the largest tv distribution deals in the history of the sport, but will also be the only live weekly broadcast MMA show airing in the United States.
The deal will see FSN and it’s regional affiliates broadcasting the 2nd season of Bellator at prime-time on Thursday evenings from April 8th, 2010, until the tournaments conclusion some 12 weeks later. They will also cover the 3rd season which is scheduled to begin from August 12th.
Meanwhile NBC will be showing weekly highlights from the event in a 30 minutes show on Saturday nights, whilst Spanish speakers can rest assured with the news that they will be getting 1 hour of highlights via Telemundo. All three stations will be broadcasting the fights in High Definition.
Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have signed this groundbreaking agreement with FOX Sports Net, NBC and Telemundo, which will bring our unique and exciting brand of tournament-based MMA events to a dramatically expanded audience of both English- and Spanish-speaking fans.”
Jerry Petry, the Executive Vice President of NBC Universal Television also stated his satisfaction with the deal saying, “Mixed martial arts has established its position by becoming one of the fastest-growing sports. Bellator and its real sport tournament format has proven it can deliver some of the finest and most intense action on broadcast television.”
In the first season of Bellator Fighting Championships, four champions – Hector Lombard (middleweight), Lyman Good (welterweight), Eddie Alvarez (lightweight) and Joe Soto (featherweight), were crowned at the conclusion of the event.