Bellator 120 fallout: Majority opinion seems to mark PPV debut as a strange success

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the media reactions in the wake of Bellator's first foray into the PPV market with Bellator 120.

In the hours and days following Bellator 120, the promotion's pay-per-view debut, most of the reaction to the show was positive.

There are some reasons for concern such as the realities of what happens long-term when you send your middleweight champion (who is realistically a large welterweight) to light heavyweight and he loses to a washed up shell of Tito Ortiz. Not to mention that the main event and co-main event ended with controversial decisions that may have softened the impact of the victories.

The show provided plenty of entertainment, though, which is probably the most important thing when you ask people to drop $45 on a PPV in a flooded market and tough economy.

Nuance is often absent in the MMA world, both from fans and media. If you don't enjoy the Bellator product (or, as media, don't appreciate the low the return on investment from covering 2nd and 3rd tier MMA), you're likely to be labeled a "UFC shill," if you don't enjoy a UFC show or feel that they have done something wrong then you're just as likely to be labeled "anti-UFC" or something similar.

The reality is that people are unique individuals with their own motivations and reasons for enjoying or not enjoying a product.

So, with that in mind, let's take a quick run around some of the media reaction following the conclusion of the event.

Over at MMA Fighting, Dave Doyle touched on the Ortiz/Shlemenko fight:

...it served Bellator little purpose to have their champion get run over in such a manner. Shlemenko is a solid, scrappy fighter who had been pushed as a cold-blooded killer. But if you were a casual fan who bought the pay-per-view on the basis of Ortiz or Quinton Jackson's name value, then you saw Bellator's champion get treated like an old-school pro wrestling television jobber, what would you think of the Bellator brand?

But then again, does any of that really matter?

Mismatches aside, Saturday night left no doubt that the Tito Ortiz Show still has a fair bit of air time left. The crowd at the Landers Center in Mississippi -- who booed the spectacular Michael Page, sat on their hands through much of Michael Chandler vs. Will Brooks, and resumed booing for Jackson vs. King Mo Lawal -- came to life with Ortiz's performance.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion managed to cut through the clutter on an evening as delightfully cacophonous as few we've seen in the sport since the three-ring circus that was Elite XC went out of business, an achievement in and of itself.

Also at MMA Fighting, Chuck Mindenhall gave his answer for if the show was worth the cost:

Was Bellator 120 worth the cover charge of $34.95-$45.95, depending on your geography/cable package? Looking back at the madness, sure it was. Madness and unpredictability and uncompromised "d*ck riding," even in the abstract, is never anything other than money well spent. The peanut gallery, who were snickering before, during and after, at least were doing so with meaning and caring. People cared about what Bellator was doing on Saturday night. For once we could all be in the same room with them, blasting music and getting loose and bumping along to the chaos. 

Bleacher Report's Chad Dundas backed the idea of a "so strange it's good" outcome for Bellator:

Every now and then, it’s more important to be interesting than good.

Bellator MMA may have pulled off one of those nights Saturday, as the unexpected plot twists of the company’s first pay-per-view broadcast ultimately outweighed its flaws.

Bellator 120 was paced like a Russian novel (an obscure one), and in a couple of its biggest spots, the organization appeared snakebit by unenviable outcomes. It felt like a slickly produced but patently small-time MMA event—none of the UFC’s usual production wizardry could be found here—but maybe, in the strangest possible way, it left its audience wanting more.

Over at MMA Junkie, Ben Fowlkes seems to be on the same page as the others, though he offers a tip to the Bellator production team:

A tip for the Bellator production crew: Once people have bought the pay-per-view, you really don’t need to keep trying to sell it to them. Maybe that’s just old habits dying hard. Bellator is used to airing on cable TV, where the challenge is to get people to stick around through the next commercial break. But once you’ve got our money, all you have to do is deliver the product. No need for lengthy previews and awkward backstage interviews. You’ve already convinced us. The hard part is over. Now just get out of the way and let the fighters do their thing.

All in all, you still have to call it a success for Bellator, at least in terms of the final product it managed to put on TV. There are bound to be some growing pains, but this felt like a legitimately entertaining event. Once it was over, I sure wasn’t sorry I’d ordered it, which is all you can really ask from a fight card that lost its main event one week out. The question is, will this peculiar brand of entertainment value translate to future success? The speed with which Bellator attempts to put together another one may ultimately give us our answer.

The consensus seems to be pretty clear from media. The event was far from perfect, but it probably registers as a win in the end.

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