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What’s Next For Bellator? ESPN? A Different Network? Pay-Per-View?

bellator_logo3Bellator’s inaugural season has come to a close, and by most accounts it has been considered a success. They set out to crown four champions using the tournament format and were able to accomplish that goal without any major hiccups. They had quite a few exciting fights and finishes which they wisely used to get a decent amount of exposure through YouTube.

What’s next for Bellator is the question now though. Their events were broadcast on a 24-hour tape delay on ESPN Deportes, and the only way to watch the fights live was to attend the actual events. They have an English broadcast team in John Anik and Jason Chambers, but the only way to see that broadcast was on the internet the following week well after everyone knew the results. In order to keep moving forward though, getting their events on an US broadcast network is a priority, and in recent months, there have been rumblings that Bellator could very well end up on airing live on ESPN or ESPN2. However, according to Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, that may not be the case anymore.

Rebney could not yet say which station will carry the English broadcast, but said it won’t necessarily be one in the ESPN family.

“Based on our deal with ESPN, I can’t speak to the issue of what’s going on,” Rebney said. “Everybody is very excited about what’s going on, and it’s not just our organization that’s excited. We’re not going to be able to make any kind of official announcement for probably 30 days. It’s going in the right direction.”

Definitely a bit of a bummer if Bellator ends up on a network such as FSN or HDNet instead of ESPN, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. As for what season two holds, the plan is to do another round of eight-man tournaments in each of the weight class with the winners emerging as the number one contenders. Then two-three months following the conclusion of the tournaments they would face the champions. Apparently, their plan is to put those fights on pay-per-view. We’ll see how season two goes, but I’m not quite as optimistic about their chances on pay-per-view as they are.

As for the pay structure, season two’s tournament pay scale will follow season one’s ($175,000 to the winners). The current champions’ purses from here on out are a little more ambiguous though. They may or may not make what they made in the tourney.

While each champion will not make the same amount of money, Rebney said champions would likely not make less than what they earned in the tournament. In fact, their paydays would likely be considerably higher, he said, because some would be cut in on a percentage of pay-per-view revenue.

Higher paydays are not a guarantee. Bellator champions are automatically slotted to make $8,000 to show and $8,000 to win, according to a copy of one Bellator contract obtained by The contracts are for three years or eight fights, whichever occurs first. For champions, their contracts extend 18 months on top of that, or three additional fights.

“Each fighter’s purse structure with Bellator is different,” said Rebney. “Some of our fighters’ title defense guarantees are X on PPV or Y on non-PPV. Some reach into the $100,000-plus category [like our championship purse] and some do not. Each structure is unique to each fighter in the non-tournament purse setting.”

What’s unclear at this point though is if and whom the champions will be fighting during season two. Would they defend their belts against fighters who lost in season one? For example, could there be a Eddie Alvarez vs Jorge Masvidal lightweight title fight? Would they fight in non-title bouts? Or just sit out the season entirely? If it’s the latter, Rebney says Bellator is open to allowing their champions to take fights outside the organization, however, just yesterday, it was reported that Eddie Alvarez was offered a fight against JZ Cavalcante at DREAM.11 in September, but was forced to turn it down because Bellator wouldn’t let him take it. Season two isn’t supposed to start until this fall, so if Eddie isn’t obligated to fight for Bellator until months after season two concludes, timing really shouldn’t be an issue. Who knows, maybe Bellator will only let their champs take fights they’re confident they won’t lose.

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