Bellator Will Start Events Earlier to Create Fight Block with UFC

By Staff Feb 28, 2011
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney likes the flexibility Viacom is capable of providing. | Dave Mandel/

When Bellator announced a partnership with MTV2 last year, some interesting programming options became possible.

Like SpikeTV, which airs UFC events, MTV2 is owned by Viacom. It would seem to make sense for the networks to work together in promoting their MMA programming. However, UFC President Dana White has never been eager to use his company to push another fight organization.

While the UFC boss might not like the thought of Bellator promos airing during UFC programming on SpikeTV, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney believes the networks will do what works best.

“Viacom is the third largest entertainment company on earth [and they] make their own decisions,” Rebney said recently on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “MTV2 and the great folks at MTV2 make their decisions in terms of where they put their promos. We’ll see them. So far I’ve seen promos for Bellator on Spike. I’ve seen them on MTV. I’ve seen them on MTV2, which is great.”

Bellator has a three-year deal with MTV2 that began this year. The first event on the network airs live Saturday at Bellator’s regular timeslot this season: 9 p.m. ET.

“It’s a spectacular timeslot,” Rebney said. “That wasn’t the timeslot by accident. That was a conscious decision working with our partners at MTV and looking at things like … how many people are home, who’s watching, what the demo is, et cetera, et cetera. That wasn’t by mistake.”

Of course, the UFC also has cards on many Saturdays, with prelim fights often airing on SpikeTV at 9 p.m. ET. When the UFC is promoting an event, Rebney said Bellator will move to 7 p.m. ET to create a block of MMA programming.

“If there’s a UFC pay-per-view, we can move our show a little bit earlier, so it turns into a mixed martial arts night where you can watch two hours of a live Bellator show and then you can go watch the UFC on Spike or on pay-per-view,” Rebney said. “It gives us some flexibility. Strikeforce does a show once every four or five weeks on Showtime, but from a universe perspective, they’re reaching 15 million homes; we’re reaching 82 million homes. That’s not as much of a concern in terms of the counterprogramming. The counterprogramming issue really gets taken off the table because we’re working under an umbrella and a banner where we can say, ‘Hey, there’s a UFC show. We’ll push [our] show up.’”

Rebney said at least two Bellator shows in the upcoming season are already scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start. In the end, he believes that will benefit all parties involved.

“The more people who tune in to watch mixed martial arts, the better it is for everybody in this business,” Rebney said. “It’s better for my organization. It’s better for Scott Coker’s organization. It’s better for Dana White’s organization. This is the greatest sport in the world. It’s the most exciting, fastest-paced, electrifying sport on earth. If you get people to watch it, nine out of 10 of them will come back and watch it again. So whether they’re watching the UFC on Spike or Bellator Fighting Championships on MTV2 or whether they’re watching Strikeforce on Showtime, that helps all of us.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:21:45) with Rebney, who also discussed Bellator’s upcoming season.
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