In the world of MMA today, the promotion that is sitting on top of the MMA mountain is easily Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Founded back in 1993, UFC first introduced to viewers the intensity of full-contact fights that did not take into account weight classes or age. During those days, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock dominated the cage.
These days, UFC is an international promotion not just because they have popular fighters like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, but because they sign on fighters around the world. Bethe Correia, who hails from Brazil, had the opportunity to defeat Rousey in a championship fight in her home country at UFC 190: Rousey vs. Correia. Dong Hyun Kim has the chance to win in his home country of South Korea when he fights Dominic Waters at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Masvidal. And Rousey was handed her first defeat at UFC 193: Rousey vs. Holm in Melbourne, Australia. Summarized, UFC is a global brand.
Ergo, it is peculiar that next biggest MMA promotion in the world, Bellator MMA, does not have the same global reach even though it is considered to be number two. That will change because in 2016, Bellator MMA will stage international premier events for the first time in its history.
Now before continuing, it should be noted that Bellator MMA is a fairly young promotion compared to UFC. Right now, Bellator MMA is about seven years old. That is minute compared to the two decades UFC has. Therefore, it makes sense why Bellator MMA is still not up to UFC’s standard. Staging international premier venues (besides in Canada) will surely help boost them, as reported by MMA Fighting. Bellator MMA announced their global endeavors on Tuesday morning of November 17, 2015. As of now, there will be three events targeted for London in England, Tel Aviv in Israel, and Italy (no city was named at the time).
Details for the Israel and Italy show were lacking at the moment, but Bellator MMA did have more information for the London show. Channel 5, which is a Viacom channel just like Spike TV, will air the event. Spike U.K. will show the preliminary card prior to the main event. As for the base American audience, no need to fear because said upcoming international premier event will still air on Spike TV in the United States. However, it will be a taped showing, not live. As for the venue, it is confirmed to be the O2 Arena.
Scott Coker, Bellator MMA president, provided a statement on “how thrilled” he and the promotion are for their newest global endeavors, as detailed by ESPN.
“We are thrilled to bring the incredible excitement of hard-hitting Bellator action featuring some of the best athletes in the world to our new global partners in the UK, Israel, and Italy. The London event is especially encouraging as we will broadcast the main card in the UK on one of the country’s most-distributed broadcast channels, Channel 5.”
As of now, there is no news on when these events will be taking place or who the fighters will be. What is known is the upcoming February 2016 super card of Ken Shamrock versus Royce Gracie in their third fight along with Kimbo Slice fighting Dada 5000 will not be one of them. Reason is because that venue is already booked for Houston, Texas. As for potential fighters, Liam McGeary might be put on London’s card since he is the current light heavyweight champion and he hails from England.
As of now, Bellator MMA is concentrating on their upcoming premier event Bellator 146: Kato vs. Manhoef in Thackerville, Oklahoma. After that, Bellator 147: Thomson vs. Villaseca will take place in San Jose, California.
[Image via Screen Capture of Bellator MMA Press Conference]