Major media conglomerate Viacom recently purchased a majority stake in one of MMA’s biggest promotions, Bellator Fighting Championships, and in a new interview UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta admits that it’s a deal that has certainly got their attention.
“The way I look at the Viacom thing, it’s massive competition for us. We’re in a situation now where it’s literally David vs. Goliath. We’re David and Viacom is Goliath,” Fertitta tells USAToday. “They have $5 billion on their balance sheet. They own as many networks as any other media company, and they can use those networks to promote Bellator and plug them now that they own them.
Amongst Viacom’s portfolio of television networks is Spike TV, the station that helped the UFC get to where it is today, and with the UFC heading to FOX they have confirmed that is their intention to move Bellator into that slot as soon as it can contractually be arranged in 2013.
Other promotion’s have tried and failed in the past to challenge the UFC, but Fertitta is taking no chances as he assesses this new contender stepping into the arena.
“We’ve just got to wake up every day and compete as hard as we can. They’re going to be a significant competitor. That’s fine. We kind of thrive on that.”
Fertitta is right to take Bellator’s threat seriously now that Viacom have taken the reigns. While promotion’s like EliteXC and Affliction have come and gone quickly, Viacom are already letting people know that they are in this for the long-haul.
“We’re majority owners and this company is going to have a long life. It’s going to stay and we want fans to know that, we want clients to know that and we want fighters to know that,” Kevin Kay of the Viacom owned network Spike TV told Yahoo! Sports earlier this week.
That is a signficant statement. Up until this point there’s always been questions about Bellator’s future and that makes it more challenging to acquire top level fighters who want financial security.
With Viacom on deck that fear disapates and they are giving every indication that they are also willing to invest in the promotion’s future, stating that they want to “become more competitive in acquiring top talent,” while there are also plans afoot to update the look and overall production of their weekly shows.
With talk of also doing a reality-tv style show based around Bellator fighters, no doubt taking a leaf out of Spike’s success with the TUF series, and other ‘best-of’ style compilation shows based on past events it’s going to be very interesting to see how farther can take Bellator in the coming years.
For now though the UFC is still miles ahead of everyone else and are likely to extend that lead in 2012 when they arrive on FOX. It should also be noted that while Fertitta gives Bellator plenty of credence it’s also in his best interests to do so at a time when they are being scrutinized by the FTC over claims that they are now effectively running an mixed martial arts monopoly.
Regardless of the political angle the sport needs competition in order to thrive, and Bellator now have a real chance to cement their place as the second biggest promotion in the world and keep the UFC on their toes.