If Spike TV president Kevin Kay is to be believed, Bellator are now on “an even footing” with the UFC.
Kay was responding to a section in a recent anti-trust lawsuit filed against the UFC by several ex-fighters which declares that, “Bellator athletes lack significant public notoriety, in part because it is a ‘minor league. Bellator’s bout purses, gate revenues, attendance figures, merchandise sales, television licensing fees and ad rates are minimal compared to those obtained by the UFC.”
The Spike TV exec shrugs off that description, and in doing so adds credibility to Zuffa’s defense that they are in fact not running a monopoly in the sport.
“I don’t think we’re a minor league at all,” Kay told MMAfighting.com. “That’s just lawyers talking. They have to position stuff a certain way.”
As far as Kay is concerned their recent tv ratings clearly show they are neck and neck with the UFC with Bellator 131 drawing an average of 1.2 million viewers, peaking at 2 million during the Tito Ortiz Vs Stephan Bonnar headliner, while Bellator 132, their first event of 2015, peaked with 1.2 million viewers.
“We’re right on an even footing [with the UFC], I believe,” Kay said. “We’re certainly not the minor leagues. Obviously, they are the market leaders right now, but I think Bellator is stepping up in a big way.”
Those are strong figures by Bellator’s standards and are comparable with what the UFC has achieved at times on FOX Sports 1.
However, in January the UFC did demonstrate the gulf between the two promotions in terms of both star power and drawing power with a series of high-profile events like UFC 182: Jones Vs Cormier which is believed to have sold over 800,000 PPV’s, UFC Fight Night 59 which was watched by an average of 2.7 million viewers on FS1 partly thanks to rising star Conor McGregor, UFC On FOX 13 which filled a stadium in Sweden and watched by over 3 million viewers on ‘big’ FOX and finally the UFC 183: Silva Vs Diaz prelims which were watched by over 1.5 million viewers.
Nevertheless, Bellator have taken a few steps forward since Scott Coker took charge in the summer of last year and with Viacom’s financial backing and Spike TV’s established viewership they do have the opportunity to be a thorn in their flesh.
Realistically though they’ve still got a long way to go before they can claim to be standing shoulder to shoulder with their biggest rivals.