Opinion: Bellator’s First Pay-Per-View
By Jesse Heitz
In November, Bellator plans to air its very first pay-per-view event (more information on this event can be found here on Full Contact Fighter). This transformation is rather groundbreaking for the relative upstart Bellator, which has been content with airing its cards on cable television. Today’s piece inevitably centers on the bout which Bellator hopes will launch their pay-per-view business.
Bellator is betting big, something that cannot be overstated, that legendary fighters can catapult its first pay-per-view card into prosperity. That’s right, if you haven’t already heard, the card that constitutes Bellator’s first foray into the pay-per-view MMA market is set to be anchored by a fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz.
Naturally, this fight, despite it featuring Tito’s return from a particularly brief retirement, has received a chorus of yawns from the majority of fans, as well as a significant amount of criticism from those who could actually be counted among the interested minority of fans. In a recent Bellator MMA press conference, the proceedings published by MMAfighting.com, Jackson chimed in on the prevailing storm of criticism, stating,
“Me and Tito have been taking hits from some of the MMA fans and it’s not right for a lot of never-will-bes and never-gonna-bes to call Tito and I has beens. You know what I’m saying? You guys should really smack yourselves for saying that.”
Perhaps Jackson is correct, nevertheless it’s a response clouded by emotion. Let’s be honest about this fight and the relative positions of these two iconic fighters. Certainly, applying the term “has beens” to Tito Ortiz and “Rampage” Jackson is downright slanderous given that they’re two of the most successful and beloved, or loathed depending on your fandom persuasion, nevertheless it cannot be denied that they are beyond their prime.
Tito Ortiz is 2-7-1 in his last ten fights, dating all the way back to his 2006 TKO win over Ken Shamrock. On top of that, he’s 38 and by his own admission has had nearly every body part surgically repaired in that time span. “Rampage” Jackson on the other hand is 2-3 in his last five fights, and hasn’t notched a win since May of 2011. Additionally, he’s 35, and while age alone doesn’t determine if a fighter is over the hill, his recent 0-3 skid coupled with his age tends to support the case that he’s no longer in his prime.
Part of me questions this particular strategy of Bellator. It’s highly likely that the fame of these two aging MMA superstars can attract not only nostalgic fans, but possibly a bevy of casual fans or potential converts. However, these two legends don’t have many fights left in them, so while a fight between these two, if they can stay healthy, will attract viewers, the long term viability of Bellator rests on showcasing their own home-grown talent.
Bellator has the connections and resources to secure the status as the undisputed number two MMA promotion in the world, but the methodology of its entrance into the pay-per-view MMA market seems to be a little misguided. While I’m a sucker for nostalgia and would tune in to see Jackson vs. Ortiz, it’s the epitome of an irrelevant fight. As such, I’d much rather watch a “stacked” Bellator card, one filled to the brim with young and exciting fighters still in their prime, rather than two old legends who have both been recently drummed out of the promotion Bellator is attempting to challenge.