Bellator got off to a flying start on Spike TV this past Thursday night with an average of 938,000 viewers tuning in to watch the start of the promotion’s eight season.

Likely thanks to following on from the popular TNA Wrestling show (which pulled 1.6 million viewers) and Bellator’s foresight to put a featherweight title fight between Pat Curran and Patricky Freire on first the night got off to a great start with 1.2 million viewers tuning in for the first 15 minutes and 1.1 million watching the full five round fight.

If there’s one dissapointment it’s that they weren’t able to maintain or improve upon that number throughout the rest of the night, but the drop-off wasn’t too significant with 956,000 viewers sticking around until the main event between Michael Chandler and Rick Hawn, though one final fight squeezed onto the main card at 12pm between Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe did drop to 739,000 viewers.

These numbers absolutely crush anything Bellator has achieved in the past with their previous high mark coming on MTV2 where they once achieved an average of 325,000 viewers, but more often than not fell below the 200,000 mark.

Impressive stuff, beating out my own prediction of around 700-800,000 viewers, and a lot of other analysts who were expecting even less than that, and not being too far off the kind of numbers that the UFC’s been seeing on FX over the past year (averaging around the 1.2 million mark).

So it’s definitely a home run, proving that in the post-UFC era Spike TV still retains a strong MMA following.

Having said that, this is just the beginning and we’ll have to see what happens once the novelty dies down and the numbers start to settle down in the coming weeks.

It should be noted that TNA Wrestling played a significant role in all this with their ratings being 23% higher than usual thanks to a well-timed gimmick that saw a spoof marriage featuring Hulk Hogan’s daughter Brooke.

Bellator had also put on a stacked show by their standards, but they won’t be able to do that every week, especially with a couple of the notable names in the 205lb tournament, Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral and Seth Petruzelli having fallen out already at the quarter-final stages.

Still, the promotion have cleared the first hurdle in some style and there’s reason to be optimistic as they move forward, and even if the ratings do take a hit from this point forward it looks like they are still going to be easily outdoing what they’ve been able to achieve ratings wise in the past.

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