Sports

Is The UFC Scared Of Bellator Fighting Championships?

It didn’t take long for the UFC talk to start immediately after Eddie Alvarez finished off his latest Bellator victim. Dana White has already publicly expressed his interest in Alvarez. Is White trying to screw with his new best friend Bjorn or is the UFC scared of Bellator?

Eddie Alvarez wasn’t even back to the locker room yet on Friday night when Dana White sent out a tweet asking Alvarez to talk. Keep in mind that White was just complaining about Bellator’s tactics when it came to negotiating with fighters just a couple of weeks ago. I read the tweet and it got me thinking. Sure, the first thought was that Dana was trying to bully Bellator and show them who is boss. Yet the more I got to thinking I started wondering whether the brutal truth here is that Dana and the UFC are petrified on their new competitor.

Bellator is currently on MTV 2 and poses no threat to the UFC. However, Bellator will be moving to Spike TV in 2013. Spike is looking to feature Bellator on their network the same way that they built the station around the UFC at the height of their partnership. This is very bad news for the UFC and the timing couldn’t be better for Spike and Bellator.

Dana White’s first “big” strike came when he signed Bellator’s middleweight champion Hector Lombard. Again keep in mind that White was complaining about Bellator’s tactics recently, yet had no problem signing away their middleweight champion. The UFC signed Lombard for a rumored $250,000 per fight deal, a ridiculous figure if you really think about it. The signing was seen as the UFC sending Bellator a message. Yet the joke was actually played on the UFC.

Lombard came into the UFC with a ton of hype and a sweet deal. Lombard vs. Anderson Silva was already being hyped as the next big middleweight title fight. What happened to this master plan? It blew up in the UFC’s face when Lombard not only lost his first fight but looked terrible in doing so.

Now the UFC is hot after Eddie Alvarez. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Alvarez has been the face and most recognizable star in Bellator Fighting Championship over the last few years. The message is crystal clear. The UFC is going to overpay Alvarez and take Bellator’s biggest star away from them. A deeper look into this grand plan shows a company that is either negotiating out of fear or arrogance.

What exactly does the UFC expect to happen to Bellator by taking Alvarez? Bellator will have a brand new audience when it debuts on Spike TV next year. Nobody in that new audience will know who Alvarez even is. It’s a fresh start for Bellator. Alvarez isn’t even in any of the promo videos at this point. How exactly is the UFC hurting Bellator? What they are doing is taking a big salary off of Bellator’s payroll, giving Bellator a chance to make new, younger stars, for a cheaper price. This isn’t exactly what I’d call a death blow here.

This has Hector Lombard written all over it. Alvarez will come into the UFC with a lot of hype and guess what? The casual UFC fans won’t even know who he is. He is just another fighter in the UFC. This is not to disrespect Alvarez as I think he is a very talented fighter. But is he up to the level of competition in the UFC? Dominating in Bellator and dominating in the UFC are two different ballgames. The UFC will wind up overpaying another decent fighter who will just be another contender in the division for what? So they can hurt Bellator?

It isn’t as if Alvarez is pulling in gigantic numbers on Bellator. Bellator has its core audience and rarely fluctuates. The Bellator fans tune into Bellator to see Bellator, not stars. That is their model, at least for now. This reminds me a lot of when the UFC “stole” Jake Shields. Dana had a field day mocking Strikeforce yet at the end of the day all that happened was the UFC overpaid Shields while Strikeforce saw no decline in business. This whole new obsession with Alvarez is childish at best.

I know some of you are laughing at me when I say that the UFC is scared of Bellator. Why would a global company be scared of a tiny national company? It’s easy. Spike can do big things for Bellator and nobody knows that better than Dana White. Once Bellator gets rolling, if they can develop a following, the UFC is in trouble. Why would fans pay $60 for a slew of ridiculous UFC main-events when they can get better fights for free every week? It really is that simple.

Can Bellator really catch the UFC? How difficult will it be to top a weekly television show that is only getting 620,000 eyes on Friday nights? I could also argue that Bellator is ahead of the game in promoting a television company and not a pay per view company. The UFC’s pay per view numbers are not very impressive. Can a well hyped, free fight top 300,000 people that bought a UFC pay per view? If you really think about it, these aren’t unrealistic expectations. Bellator still has to put a good product out there with the right promotion but if everything aligns, they really could beat these numbers.

Will fans still pay money to see the big UFC fights on pay per view? Sure they will, but are they going to pay to see Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar, Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit, Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva, or Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort when they can see quality fights for free? Maybe not! Dana White isn’t stupid and the dirty little secret here is that there should be plenty of people scared to death in the Zuffa offices. What happens in a couple of years when the top UFC draws Anderson Silva and GSP retire? What if Bellator can actually create some stars?

At the end of the day Bellator succeeding and becoming a national sensation is fantastic thing for MMA, especially the fighters. Maybe, just maybe MMA fighters can now have an alternative when negotiating? Do you think anyone in Zuffa wants that to happen, of course not.

Alvarez will likely sign with the UFC and Dana White will gloat as if he got one over on his new best friend Bjorn Rebney. Unfortunately for him at the end of the day none of this will have any impact on Bellator’s big picture whatsoever and the pressure will only continue mount in 2013.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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