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Bellator MMA’s broadcast future with DAZN unclear amid conflicting reports

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Could Bellator be moving off of DAZN soon? And is Showtime where they’re going to end up? We look into the conflicting reports.

Bellator Japan Weigh-In Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage

Bellator MMA is generally viewed as the second-biggest MMA promotion in North America, and has a current broadcast deal with Paramount Network and streaming service DAZN. With those outlets, they have grown the company to the point of being able to run 27 events in 2019. But it appears that their future, at least in terms of where their shows will air, is quite unclear at the moment.

Earlier today, it was reported by media outlet Heavy that DAZN’s original five-year deal with Bellator was actually only for two years, and that term will be up in June 2020. Additionally, according to their anonymous sources, DAZN isn’t interested in airing Bellator any longer and the two are set to part ways.

That seems rather bleak, but it also may be somewhat inaccurate. The general consensus, including from Bloody Elbow’s own John Nash, is that the deal is actually for three years, with an additional two-year option.

This has also been strongly hinted at by someone who is very interested in having Bellator come (back) to his network—Showtime’s president of sports and event programming, Stephen Espinoza.

In an interview last week with BoxingScene.com, Espinoza made it clear that he would like to work with Bellator CEO Scott Coker again. And they could even start airing some boxing/MMA crossover events at some point. But he also highlighted that Bellator moving fully back to Showtime would not happen until the promotion honored its contracts with DAZN and Paramount—which he claimed didn’t end for a while.

“We’re going to honor that deal,” said Espinoza. “There is no plan otherwise. In the long run, we’re going to try and grow the business in a way that is organic and rewarding to the fans … That’s the goal, generally, to have Bellator back and use the combined power of the entire corporation. In the long term, all of those assets are going to be used to help Bellator grow.

“The timing of that remains to be seen, as there is a good amount of time still left on the DAZN deal.”

If anyone is going to know the status of Bellator’s deal with DAZN, it’s likely going to be Espinoza. After all, he’s Scott Coker’s boss. Back in January, ViacomCBS did a little shuffling and part of their reorganization meant that Coker directly reported to Espinoza.

Obviously the coronavirus pandemic has complicated everything, but according to many of the dogs in the fight, it looks like Bellator could be on DAZN for a while longer. Even if it does seem like they’ll be making the jump to another network eventually.