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Point/Counterpoint: Are there too many Bellator MMA shows?

Scott Coker

Photo: Sherdog.com

Even with today's online attack culture environment turning debate into a terrible, overproduced thing, there is still a place for two people to organically disagree on a topic and let the world decide who they think is right: ESPN First Take! (Just kidding.)

Paul Fontaine and I found we disagreed on the topic of whether there are too many Bellator shows, so I suggested we do a Point/Counterpoint on it. Let us know what you think on Twitter who you agree with. 

You can catch Paul's coverage of Bellator Vengeance Friday night, and listen to a preview of the entire weekend with myself and MMA Fighting's Shaheen Al-Shatti on the latest JNPO.

Enjoy!

*****

Josh's Take --

On a recent JNPO with MMA Weekly’s Erik Fontanez, we talked about Bellator 144 and noted that other than Michael "Venom" Page, there wasn’t a ton on the show to get psyched about. Fans seemed to agree as the show drew just 555,000 viewers -- the lowest numbers of any show of the Scott Coker era.

In looking ahead, that number might get worse and the reason for that -- wait for it -- is too many shows! Granted, I understand that there may be contractual obligations to casinos left over by the Bjorn Rebney era, but the amount of B shows are hurting their ability to put on meaningful and fun five fight shows.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

From tonight’s Bellator 145 event through December 4, Bellator has three shows: one major “tentpole” show and two B shows. The St. Louis A show has a good TV lineup other than Justin Lawrence vs. Emmanuel Sanchez which doesn’t need to be on the main card.

In two weeks, they return with a Oklahoma B show that only has three main card fights announced thus far with Melvin Manhoef vs. Hisaki Kato as a main event, followed by a Bubba Jenkins fight and a Ricky Rainey fight, all of which should be on the undercard of the St. Louis show. However, Manheof/Kato in place of Lawrence/Sanchez tonight would be great.

Two weeks after that, the promotion returns to San Jose for another B show headlined by Josh Thomson against a guy who doesn’t even have a headshot on the Bellator website. Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Daniel Weichel is the only other main card fight announced and we’re now less than a month away from the show.

Why do all these shows need to exist? Bellator should be focused on maximum impact anytime they hit the TV screen and instead, they are doing just what the UFC frequently does: fill airtime with a mid-level product that doesn’t leave us wanting more.

Scott Coker is a smart guy and he’s got to know Bellator has to be better than this. I hope for his sake that Spike TV agrees and believes that with combat sports, less is truly more.

*****

Paul's Take --

After listening to JNPO (great show by the way, strongly recommended), I emailed Josh about this as I have a different opinion. In this case, I think that Bellator’s problems this year have actually been not enough shows.

When Bellator started on Spike TV before the Scott Coker era, they would run weekly in “seasons”, using a tournament format. They took periodic breaks where they would run one show a month. During that time, they had a fairly steady fanbase that would generally fluctuate between 600,000 and 800,000 viewers. I feel that the reason for this is that when they were running weekly, there is a segment of the audience that knew that if they wanted to watch MMA, they could tune into Spike TV and Bellator would be on.

MMA, and especially pro wrestling fans, are creatures of habit. Having a show every week on the same station in the same time slot is generally going to keep a fairly consistent audience. If the shows are good, the audience will trend upward. But when they’re running an erratic schedule, sometimes on Saturdays, sometimes taking a month off, you get what you’ve gotten this year. Over the next little while, and actually dating back to the last Bellator show, they are running bi-weekly from mid-October until early December.

Friday's “A” show is fairly stacked by Bellator standards. Yes, the Justin Lawrence-Emmanuel Sanchez fight would be better served on the prelims, but Bellator has an excuse here as Pat Curran was originally scheduled to fight former UFC fighter Lawrence. Sanchez stepped up as a late replacement and this should be a fun fight.

The next “B” show is now finalized, and looks not so bad. Melvin Manhoef and Houston Alexander are the most familiar names on the show and it also features prospects Bubba Jenkins and Chidi Njokuani. I think that the stronger than usual B show lineup, combined with a more regular schedule, will result in a better viewership number for Bellator. The last show in December will feature Josh Thomson and former WSOF Featherweight champion Georgi Karakhanyan and Josh Koscheck is rumoured to be making his promotional debut on that show as well, so it should do fairly well.

Time will tell, but I think that Bellator might feel similar to the way I do as plans for next year are for a more regular schedule with an increase in the number of both A and B shows and also running a wider variety of markets and venues.