Just a short intro this time, guys. Basically, I'm taking all the feedback and critiques I received on this site and others from my "Go Watch Bellator" topic and addressing them over a series of articles. If this one gets some good feedback and debate going, I'll post the rest as I tackle them. If not, I'd just like to thank y'all for giving me some good food for thought. That said...
Defending Bellator by Not Defending Non-Title Super-Fights
In order to truly consider yourself a sports fan, you have to take the bad with the good. My rallying cry of “Go Watch Bellator” has not been without some detractors, but thankfully, most of them have been fellow hardcore MMA fans like myself. While they aren’t so quick to jump onto the Bellator bandwagon, they definitely have put some serious thought into their criticisms. In order to give this “Go Watch Bellator” experiment a little diversity, I’m going to begin responding and discussing some of the concerns MMA fans have towards Bellator. First up: the “super-fights” that have Bellator champions not defending their titles.
Before I even begin, I’d like to state one thing: it’s very easy to get off-topic when it comes to these non-title “super fights”. Inevitably, it’ll all come back to the reason behind these fights: the tournament format keeps the champions inactive. I intend to make Bellator’s tournament format the finale of my tangent of articles that address Bellator’s flaws. So just keep that in mind.
That said, the main problem with non-title “super-fights” is simple: it’s not a super-fight unless you make it special. The UFC has provided some good examples for this in their time. In the one fight that saw BJ Penn not defending his UFC Lightweight Championship in his most-recent run as champion, he was fighting Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Championship in a fight that was marketed as one of the biggest fights in UFC history. Anderson Silva stepped out of the UFC Middleweight division to take on Forrest Griffin, a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. That wasn’t as big of a “super-fight” as Penn/GSP, but it certainly was memorable, since many consider it the most embarrassing beatdown in UFC history.
Bellator’s “super-fights” are more along the lines of Anderson Silva’s fight against James Irvin. At least in that fight, the purpose was to take viewers away from the first Affliction Pay-Per-View. In Bellator… these fights just kinda happen. It’s better than letting the champion sit on the shelf… but not much better.
And if you want my honest opinion? By now ya’ll know I loves me some Bellator… but only in Bellator is it considered a “super-fight” when a reigning champion takes on a sacrificial lamb.
Before Christian M’Pumbu lost to Travis Wiuff, it was always mentioned in the lead-up to these fights that a Bellator champion had always won these non-title fights. But look at most of the competition those champions faced. There have been a few decent threats to the Bellator champions, but for the most part it’s been a series of easy, one-sided beatdowns. These fights only make sense if you consider that something is better than nothing, meaning that any opponent is better than just letting the champions sit on the shelf and possibly develop ring rust while they’re waiting for the next tournament to conclude.
There’s a reason I chose to talk about this topic first in my series of articles discussing Bellator’s flaws: I have no real counter to this one, folks. I’m being open and honest: I don’t like this and I want it to stop. I like a lot of things about Bellator, that’s the reason I started #gowatchbellator. But I don’t like this.
It’s not all “doom and gloom”, though. There are actually several ways for Bellator to fix this problem. First and foremost, they could simply run more tournaments to the point where there’s always a contender waiting in the wings. Most champions in major promotions fight three times a year, so Bellator could conceivably fill that gap quite easily in the coming years thanks to the exposure and boost that the move to Spike TV will give them.
We’ve actually already seen this in the form of Bellator’s “Summer Series”. Taking place after Season Five, the winner of that tournament (Pat Curran) was moved ahead of the winner of Season Five’s Featherweight Tournament (Patricio Freire) when an injury forced Freire out of his championship opportunity. Curran went on to win the belt in an absolutely brilliant performance, and now we’ll get Freire/Curran once Freire heals up.
In the case of the “Summer Series”, all it took was one more tournament to keep Joe Warren active instead of sitting on the shelf waiting for Freire to heal. Not only that, but we also got an amazing “Bellator moment” when Pat Curran defeated Joe Warren. And finally, we’ve got a huge Freire/Curran showdown to look forward to.
If that doesn’t work (and it really should) Bellator could simply try to get better competition for their champions to face: champions from other promotions (non-Zuffa of course), former Bellator champions, even Bellator stars that don’t have much else to do and wouldn’t mind jumping up or down in weight.
But the disinterest in these non-title “super-fights” is a valid point for those that don’t like Bellator. My defense is simple: I don’t really like it either, but there’s a lot of other things to like about Bellator. No promotion is perfect, and sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. So I can still say confidently and loudly: go watch Bellator.
If you’re a Twitter user and want to get in on the discussion and/or offer up your own insight, feel free to use #gowatchbellator in your tweets to help spread the word.
Oliver Saenz, also known as PdW2kX, is a freelance journalist, opinion columnist, hardcore MMA fan, and lifelong video game nerd. For more news, views, previews, and reviews on all things Mixed Martial Arts as well as video games, be sure to visit FightGamesBlog.net.