Earlier this week, the viewership numbers for last weekend’s Bellator 198 event were released, and the event averaged about 750,000 viewers. That’s not a great number by any means, but that number represents a small boost in Bellator’s viewership compared to the promotion’s recent events, which were highly criticized by observers of the sport. It’s fair to say that this has been a down year for the promotion to this point as far as the numbers go, but Bellator 198 at least shows things are headed in the right direction. With the SPIKE TV era in the rear-view mirror and the Paramount Network era before us, Bellator is going to experience some growing pains as that transition occurs, but no doubt Bellator 198 was a step in the right direction.
Well, things are looking even better now that the peak numbers have been revealed. According to Bellator’s senior PR representative CJ Tuttle via Twitter, Bellator’s peak number was 1.5 million viewers. The peak occurred at 11:26 EST, which is the minute Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir stepped into the cage and went to war in their quarterfinal matchup in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. Considering how much flak Bellator has been getting as of late for its numbers, the fact the promotion did such a huge peak number at a time when less and less people even have cable is something worth discussing, because in my opinion the numbers show that Fedor is still a huge draw.
Especially during an era where more and more people don’t even have cable television, the fact Bellator peaked at 1.5 million viewers is definitely notable. Not only were the hardcore fans watching the fight, but there were casual fans watching it, too. Even though Fedor is 41 and was coming off of a brutal KO loss to Matt Mitrione, Fedor still has that aura about him and it was enough to get fans to tune in to watch and see what would happen against Mir, who we should note also has a big name from his days as a UFC champion. Not only did the fight have two big names in it, but the fight truly delivered excitement as Fedor brutally knocked out Mir in the first minute of the fight to show everyone he still has something left in the tank. Although the bout didn’t even last a full minute, it was still one of the most exciting moments in MMA we’ve seen all year, and the amount of buzz that came out of the fight was substantial as everyone in the MMA world and even some in the mainstream sports world were buzzing about the fight after it happened. Not only that, but Fedor’s win over Mir has now set up Bellator with another potentially massive fight against Chael Sonnen, who Fedor will fight in the semifinals of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix later this year.
He might be old and he might never be the dominant champion he was in the PRIDE days, but Fedor is still a big name in the sport and still a draw. Fedor’s re-emergence as a knockout artist against Mir is great for the sport of MMA at a time when there are less and less stars currently fighting. And it’s especially huge for Bellator, as it needed a big night like this to show everyone the promotion can still deliver a great night of excitement. There’s no doubt the transition from SPIKE to Paramount hasn’t been smooth, but things are finally looking up for Bellator, and a lot of that can be attributed to Fedor. There’s just something special about this man that makes fans want to tune in and watch him fight, and that’s the perfect medicine for Bellator at a time when the company needs to draw ratings in order to prove to its backers that its worth investing all this money into.
Fedor isn’t cheap, and Bellator president Scott Coker alluded to the Russian’s hefty purse in the post-fight press conference, but say what you want about Fedor, that man delivers the goods. And after seeing an upswing in viewership with Fedor vs. Mir, you know Coker and the Bellator brass are licking their chops just waiting to see the numbers when Fedor fights Sonnen later this year. Things were looking down for Bellator for a while, but with Fedor doing well again, things are looking back up.
Do you think Bellator’s viewership will keep rising with Fedor Emelianenko on the card?