Can Bellator Become The UFC’s Full Rival?

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Bellator UFC

UFC color commentator Joe Rogan said this week on his podcast that he hopes Bellator will turn into a full rival for the UFC. Rogan said he wishes Bellator would become the UFC’s full rival, much like PRIDE was over a decade ago, and he also added that he likes the fact MMA fighters have another option to get paid if Bellator succeeds. When the fighters get paid well, the fighters are happier, and the happier the fighters are, the better the fights are. It’s a win-win for everyone if Bellator eventually gets to the UFC’s level.

On one hand, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that someone under contract with the UFC would put himself out there and say he hopes the competition turns into the top rival for his employer. On the other hand, Rogan has always been outspoken and honest about his MMA opinions, so we shouldn’t have expected him to say anything less. Very much a fighters-first analyst, Rogan is someone who has always had the fighters’ best intentions in mind so it’s nice to hear him come out and support Bellator as the UFC’s rival. The fact is, having another big promotion with money to spend can only be a good thing for the fighters, and Bellator has been willing to open up the wallet and spend as of late.

Having said that, while it’s great seeing Bellator having success and in some instances even bettering the UFC — Bellator surprisingly beat the UFC to putting together a show in Hawaii, and they signed away top talent like Rory MacDonald and Gegard Mousasi — it’s hard to see Bellator becoming a full rival of the UFC anytime soon. Instead of being a rival, I view Bellator as more of an alternative for the fighters, and that’s not such a bad thing.

The biggest difference between the UFC and Bellator is the sheer roster size. The UFC has more fighters, more divisions, more elite talent, more prospects, and more money. Bellator has developed its fair share of talent too, and they have been spending more money as of late, but the UFC is still king. Thankfully Viacom has committed to spending more money and Bellator has gone out there and signed free agents like Lyoto Machida, but the rosters are still vastly different. It will be a while before Bellator’s roster truly competes with the UFC, but having said that, Bellator has to be credited for signing some big name veterans as well as developing some nice prospects in recent years.

The biggest problem Bellator will face is that it’s just not the UFC. The UFC still has the majority of marketshare in the MMA space and while Bellator has put a small dent into it, it isn’t close to surpassing the UFC yet. Even though Bellator has some great fighters and even though president Scott Coker has done a great job transforming the promotion into the second-biggest MMA organization in the world beside the UFC, it’s still a far second place. The DAZN deal and the influx of cash Bellator will get from it can only help grow the roster, but Bellator is still far away from being in the same conversation as PRIDE was back in the day as a true full rival to the UFC. Right now, Bellator is more like Strikeforce to the UFC. That is, an alternative, albeit a very good one at that.

Who knows how the coming years will change things between the UFC and Bellator. The ESPN deal is supposed to be huge for the UFC and make it grow even bigger, but who knows. The DAZN deal is supposed to make Bellator even bigger, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. At the end of the day, it’s just great that the fighters have two organizations willing to spend money on talent and put together great fights. I’m not fully convinced Bellator is even close to being a full rival of the UFC, but it’s certainly the top alternative out there, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Do you believe Bellator can become full rivals to the UFC?