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Bellator Fighting Championships Announces Agreement With ESPN Deportes

ESPN LogoThe press release:

Los Angeles, Calif. — November 19, 2008 — Bellator Fighting Championships, a first of its kind Mixedartial Arts (MMA) promotion, officially launched operations today from offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. Three years in development, Bellator has an exclusive television agreement with ESPN Deportes. Bellator season #1 premieres on ESPN Deportes in April, 2009.

Bellator (Latin for warrior), marks a step forward in the evolution of professional Mixed Martial Arts with a business model unique in the fight industry, yet followed in every other major sport. At Bellator, a fighter’s wins or losses control his future. Bjorn Rebney, Bellator founder & CEO states, “We are implementing a tournament structure to determine champions and #1 challengers so that world-class fighters can control their destiny based on their performance.”

Bellator events will showcase highly competitive fights between top competitors with each tournament bout winner earning substantially larger purses and moving closer to a championship fight. “Simply put, at Bellator, fighters fight their way to the title,” Rebney adds.

With a tagline that refers to its fighters as warriors that are on their way to becoming legends, Bellator differentiates itself by making its fighters the focus of the organization. “The fans’ connection to Bellator will be created through our fighters. That understanding will drive the promotion, publicity, marketing and advertising of Bellator’s fighters, making them the centerpiece of what we do,” says Rebney.

On each telecast, leading up to tournament bouts, Bellator Fighting Championships will air back-stories on each fighter. “We will use the simple yet powerful sports programming philosophy of combining elite competition with compelling feature pieces that tell the story of who these fighters are, where they’re from and why they compete,” says Bellator founder & COO Brad Epstein. “MMA fighters have incredibly rich stories to tell, and we will bring these to MMA fans, allowing our audience to identify with who these warriors really are.”

Bellator’s nationally televised events will be highly competitive sports programming in its purest form and will have no connection to “reality television.” These events are structured as tournament competitions, crowning champions and top challengers at the end of each season.

Bellator’s premiere season consists of 12 two-hour events to be broadcast weekly in primetime on Saturday nights. The nationally televised events will feature a combination of tournament and non-tournament special feature bouts. There will be four simultaneous tournaments taking place in season #1 over a three month period: one in each of the Featherweight (145 lb.), Lightweight (155 lb.), Welterweight (170 lb.) and Middleweight (185 lb.) divisions. Eight fighters from around the world will be represented in each division.

To win the Bellator Championship, a fighter must win a total of three fights, each consisting of three five-minute rounds over a three month period. At the end of the initial three month, 12-event season, Bellator will have crowned four Bellator Champions and will have awarded each Champion $175,000. Opening round winners receive $25,000, semi-final round winners receive $50,000 and final winners receive $100,000.

“Mixed Martial Arts is becoming increasingly popular among Hispanics and we are thrilled to work with Bellator Fighting Championships to showcase these world-class athletes on a national platform,” says Lino Garcia, general manager, ESPN Deportes. “The structure of this championship will give fans a unique opportunity to follow their athletes as the tournament progresses.”

Bellator’s interactive Web site,, featuring event and fighter information, behind the scenes video footage, fight clips and live interaction with Bellator fighters will go live in late December, 2008.

About Bellator Fighting Championships
Bellator Fighting Championships is a Mixed Martial Arts promotional company with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. Bellator’s founders, Bjorn Rebney and Brad Epstein, are experienced sports and entertainment professionals with a deep commitment to the purity and integrity of the sport of MMA and its athletes. Bellator Fighting Championships’ executive team is comprised of top industry professionals in the areas of live event production (including Rob Beiner, winner of 12 Emmy awards for sports programming), fighter relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations.

No where in this press release does it say the fights will be live. Strikeforce on NBC has done well showing prerecorded fights, but that’s on NBC. This will be on ESPN Deportes. The IFL made the mistake of airing prerecorded fights in the beginning and killed any momentum they might have had out of the gate. Add in a tournament over a three month span that is bound to be plagued with injuries, and I’m afraid they’re setting themselves up for failure. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

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