11-02-2010, 01:22 PM
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| | Strikeforce vs. Bellator: Does Anybody Win?
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Strikeforce vs. Bellator: Does Anybody Win? |
by Kid Nate on Nov 2, 2010 11:05 AM EDT in Business of MMA
Bellator champs Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard have limited options and are looking outside the promotion for challenges.
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Over the weekend there was an online dust up with Bellator boss Bjorn Rebney claiming he's been contacting Scott Coker frequently in pursuit of some champion vs. champion fights. Then Coker denied he'd been contacted. Then Rebney released screen shots of texts he claims to have sent Coker. Coker came back with "that's my old number."
Jake Rossen isn't impressed by Rebney's methods:
Let's say Coker got the requests for a meeting. He clearly ignored them. What does that tell you? He's not interested in a dialogue about unifying belts. Or his television partners -- which absolutely dwarf Rebney's deal with Fox Sports and their hide-the-show programming strategy -- have no interest in devaluing talent by seeing their opposition return to a rival promotion. Let's say Alvarez, Bellator's champion, beats Melendez into paste. What was the upside for Showtime again?
Maybe Rebney is more self-aware than I give him credit for, and the melodrama is a way for a promoter to promote. I get it. But part of what makes the UFC the dominant brand is the idea, whether it's true or not, that they're the ones being pursued. You will never see Dana White issuing a press release about unanswered text messages to HBO. Rebney is a presence with some good ideas and solid talent, but he needs a delay button. Too bad he'd probably prefer a wiretap.
Steve Cofield piles on:
Rebney is the guy who needs to get this thing back on track. Whatever happened to dialing the phone, and actually speaking to someone? Unless he does that or gets out to Northern California to discuss things, he may be turning Alvarez into a worthless commodity.
What this is all about -- beyond Bjorn Rebney trying to get some publicity for his promotion and fighters -- is the limitations smaller promoters are working with in a world dominated by the exclusive contract model imposed on MMA by the UFC.
On the surface, Rebney's idea seems like an interesting one -- three fights, champion vs champion. Bellator's middle-, welter-, and lightweight champs Hector Lombard, Ben Askren and Eddie Alvarez would face Strikeforce's champs Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Nick Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez. Those are all compelling match-ups that I would personally pay to see.
But not so fast.
Dave Meltzer says that anyone who thinks Strikeforce should book those fights doesn't understand the business (transcribed by Fight Opinion):
Champion vs. Champion, what if your guys lose? You're the stronger promotion, what's the upside to that? I mean, granted, you know, like I say Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez could be a fantastic fight but it's not, you know... There's just no upside for Strikeforce for that fight, so that's kind of where that stands right now and, you know, it puts, you know it's kind of like the deal where people were clamoring for Dana White to co-promote and bring Fedor into UFC and, you know, you and I were both like, this is ridiculous, but people are very naive about the business of this business and this is the same thing. It's like, you know, Coker's looking bad to some people because they're naive about the business of the business, ‘like we could see these great fights!' that quite frankly, you know, it's not like anyone's clamoring for these fights in the real world. Not that anyone's clamoring for any fights from Strikeforce in the real world but the point is that, you know, what if the Bellator guys win? Then you've got paper champions in Strikeforce, you know, you have your guys lose on your own, it's absolutely ridiculous business-wise to do this.
Total-MMA writer Alan Conceicao has a different view and comments at Fight Opinion:
1) Meltzer has never heard of promoters in "cross-promotional fights" getting options on X of fights before, in spite of it being common practice in boxing. That's only a business that Rebney comes from.
2) Rebney doing this is to create some sort of real world buzz for the fight, thus forcing Showtime to go to Strikeforce and demand they put it on. Its not as if Showtime has ever put two or three or five promoters at a table before and told them to put together a series of fights before, have they? Oh, wait.
Conceicao is referring to Showtime's Super Six boxing tournament which forced multiple promoters to work together to book six top middleweight boxers into one tournament. It's had some issues but has been a very exciting experiment and shows that cross-promotion can be done in the fight sports business.
Personally, as a fan, I'd love to see these fights. I understand why Strikeforce wouldn't want to work with Bellator, but I also see Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez running out of intriguing fights in Strikeforce with a quickness. Alvarez and Askren would be great challengers for those two. Middleweight is an entirely different kettle of fish as Jacare has plenty of potential challengers in Strikeforce's deepest division.
But this brings us back to why is Bjorn Rebney pushing this angle so hard?
In his Wrestling Observer (subscription only), Meltzer breaks down some of the issues Bellator is facing:
But the big question going forward is how exactly can the promotion succeed? The Fox Sports Net television deal isn't lucrative. The NBC deal was a time buy when Strikeforce had the slot, and even though on paper that late night slot draws decent viewership, my feeling, given that nobody ever talked about the show when Strikeforce had the slot, and nobody talks about it now, is that MMA fans aren't watching. It's probably more insomniacs still tuned to NBC for Saturday Night Live, and then the Poker that follows who just don't switch the channels. Live gates are small. Payoffs and costs of producing television weekly aren't. The three tournament champions this past season (former NCAA champions Ben Askren and Cole Konrad, and the winner of the 10/28 fight to create a Women's 115 pound champion with Megumi Fujii vs. Zoila Frausto) all received $100,000. The company's highest paid fighter, Eddie Alvarez, is getting six figures per fight. Fighters are under the impression a third season will start in early 2011.
The company ran the biggest show in its history on 10/21 in Philadelphia, featuring Alvarez, the company's lightweight champion, in his home town, facing former UFC star Roger Huerta, and winning by doctor's stoppage at the end of the second round. ...
But even in Philadelphia, playing at the Licouras Center, the few wide shots showed a building that was largely empty, and this was for the company's top fighter, in the first fight of his career, in his home town. He's fought several times nearby in Atlantic City. The fans who did come, went crazy for him.
Bellator does a few things well -- signing talent and booking entertaining fights (with the glaring exception of their heavyweight tournament) -- you can add to that list hyping fights that are very unlikely and building buzz online.
Time will tell if making money in the fight business is something Bjorn Rebney can do. So far the jury is still out.
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