In the early 2000's the Oakland A's embraced a philosophy that used enhanced baseball statistics to find players who were being undervalued, and could be had on the cheap. Oakland had a good run of success making the playoffs on a consistent basis, but then fell on hard time through the middle of the decade before recapturing some magic last year. (Personally, I think the success was more based on Hudson, Zito, Mulder, with an assist from BALCO for the first run, and then the next crop of good Pitching talent showing up last year... but that is a debate for another time and place.) One of the misconceptions about Moneyball is that the philosophy is only tied to a narrow set of stats (On base Percentage (OBP) or On base plus Slugging (OPS)) but the real key to the system is finding the quality players who are not commanding high salaries and bringing them in.
In 2009 when Bellator first launched it needed to find ways to attract quality talent, and an audience. At the time they were not just competing against UFC, but Strikeforce, and Dream were all established entities that could pull fighters away from what Bellator was trying to build. Landing corner stones like Eddie Alvarez, and Hector Lombard was key, but Casino ballrooms, and ESPN deportes was not going to support too many fighters of their caliber in such a competitive marketplace. Using the talent to value equation, Bellator first keyed in on Hispanic fighters that they hoped would catch on with their ESPN deportes audience. Mexican fighters like Jorge Ortiz, Yahir Reyes, and Nick Gonzalez were part of the show, along with American fighters with Hispanic heritage like Payan, Masvidal, Martinez, Soto, Padilla, and Urbina.
Two season's later their next shot at finding the most value possible was the opening up of the Bellator Female divisions. At the time Women's MMA was the farthest thing from UFC's mind, Gina Carano had fought her last fight, and Strikeforce was in what became their struggle to find Cyborg not just quality opponents, but any opponents. Female fighters at 115lbs were there to be had by any organization, and it was clearly worth it for Bellator to continue to try and carve out its niche. Megumi Fugii, Jessica Penne, Jessica Aguilar, and Zoila Frausto were part of the first group of female fighters to compete in the Bellator tourney.
Now starting in season six, Bellator has keyed in on MMA talent from a region of the world that has been under represented across UFC and Strikeforce to this point, Russia. Over the last decade there has been only one Russian fighter that UFC, and Strikeforce really cared about and that was Fedor. Young talent coming out of the Sambo ranks was competing on M-1, and regional cards, but not making to the big shows on a regular basis. Difficulties in dealing with M-1, and no real urgency to get involved in the market were keeping some of the bidders away. While Alexander Shlemenko started fighting for Bellator in Season 2 he was not followed immediately by many of his countrymen. It was season six that featured three Russian fighters, and that was the trickle before the flood. Season Seven showcased eleven Russian fighters on Bellator shows, and season eight has seen many more Russian fighters in the Bellator cage with increasing amounts of success. How long will Bellator be able to pull from this region with no serious competition? UFC has also added a handful of Russian fighters over the last 16 months. Dana White also recently mentioned that a UFC live show in Russia is closer than many people think, with the rumors implying that 2014 is realistic. If Khabib Nurmagomedov continues to win and move up the LW rankings he will give UFC the home town guy that they love to push in new markets.
Have the backing of Viacom, and a quality TV partner in SPIKE means that Bellator can better compete to sign, and re-sign top talent, but they are still not drawing Million dollar gates, and big PPV revenue so Bellator will have to continue to play "Moneyball" to find the undervalued areas of MMA. They will likely become more like the Boston Red Sox of 2003-2009 who spent big money at times while using the statistical principles of "Moneyball." The one area that stands out right now is lower weight Women's MMA. The popularity and success of Ronda Rousey in UFC is something that Bellator can potentially parlay into their own success. With fighters like Jessica Eye, and Felice Herrig, Bellator has a quality base to build off, and promote the division while Invicta is their only competition for fighters 125lbs and below.