While in the past years Bellator MMA preliminary cards have been merely an afterthought, often heavily populated with local fighters to help better sell tickets, the California-based promotion is working to beef up its digital presence.
That will be especially evident at Aug. 26, as the Bellator 160 prelims are as attractive a lineup as any the promotion has offered. The Bellator.com-streamed portion of the card will be topped by a featherweight rematch between Georgi Karakhanyan and Bubba Jenkins. Also included in the early offerings will be a trio of intriguing promotional debuts: Kevin Ferguson Jr., the son of the late Kimbo Slice; Joey Davis, a four-time NCAA Division II national champion with a 131-0 career mark; and Chinzo Machida, the older brother of ex-UFC champion Lyoto Machida.
“As everyone knows, in today’s world it’s important to have a strong digital presence and do everything possible to draw attention and really drive traffic to Bellator.com," Bellator President Scott Coker said. "With our athletes being the focal point of our business model, there is no better way to do just that, than to put the highest quality fights not only on Spike, but also during our Bellator.com-streamed preliminary card.”
Bellator is not the first organization to place an emphasis on its streaming platform. In recent months, the UFC has worked to upgrade its Fight Pass service, which debuted in 2014, by offering premium fights on virtually every card. Bellator has already tried that approach on a few occasions, notably moving a key lightweight clash between former title challengers Marcin Held and Dave Jansen at Bellator 155 to the prelims.
According to Coker, it has already paid dividends.
"In 2016, Bellator.com has experienced double-digit growth on its coverage of the Bellator prelims over last year,” he said. “It's truly a testament to the growing talent pool we have at Bellator and the ability to fill the card from top to bottom."
Bellator 160 takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and is headlined by a lightweight No. 1 contender bout between Benson Henderson and Patricio Freire. The main card airs on Spike TV at 10 p.m. ET, while the preliminary draw begins on Bellator.com at 8 p.m. ET.