Like any promotion moving to a large television network, Bellator Fighting Championships hopes to break into its deal with Spike the same way it broke into the MMA world, and if you will recall, Bellator broke into the MMA world with a bang.

With a new deal that allows Spike and Spike.com to air Bellator’s brand of mixed martial arts action, the promotion looks to expand substantially and attract the attention of wider audiences. Although MTV2 and Spike both fall under the Viacom Media Networks umbrella, Spike reaches approximately 99 million households, approximately 19 million more than that of MTV2. Needless to say, Bellator appears to have made the right choice in moving to Spike, where the 18-49 demographic appears more likely to eat up its brand of MMA than did the male demographic of MTV2’s viewership.

Right now, the Bellator brand of MMA on its own does well enough to appeal to the target audience of Spike, but the optimism surrounding the promotion’s move stems predominantly from exactly who will partake in Bellator’s first outings on Spike.

Lightweight champion Michael Chandler faces Rick Hawn in the headliner of Bellator 85, the promotion’s debut on Spike, with featherweight champion Pat Curran facing Patricio Freire in the co-feature. Bellator 86 will see Ben Askren defending his welterweight title against Karl Amoussou, with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal making his promotional debut as well, and Bellator 88 will get Maiquel Falcao vs. Alexander Shlemenko. There’s also the Bellator 89 card, which currently expects Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas to defend his title against Marcos Galvao. And with the talent that Bellator has amassed in preparation for the move, cards will likely load up to a greater extent than what we witnessed towards the end of this fall’s season seven.

It should go without saying that Bellator shows a great deal of motivation in commencing onward with its product’s forward progression, the benefits of which will exhibit themselves with time and trust in the Spike network family. However, with the acknowledgement of the promotion’s current motivation comes the question of how long it will remain.

Past deals with the likes of ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports and MTV2 were all met with initial enthusiasm from fans and the promotion’s executives, but it also saw Bellator run into various dilemmas. Some viewers didn’t have the specific Fox Sports channel that aired Bellator in their area (or the Fox Sports channel prioritized local high school and college sporting events, preempting Bellator airings to such ridiculous hours as 3 a.m. or opting not to show the event at all), and some didn’t have ESPN Deportes, Epix, Epix 2 or MTV2 as available options in their cable package.

But Spike and Spike.com should keep the motivation alive in ways that those past networks partners could not. Fans who do not have Spike in their cable package have options. They can at the very least catch the preliminary card on Spike’s website, and in most cases, the option is there to change cable packages or providers in order to obtain access to the television network. With Spike comes a larger reach into households than anything Bellator has experienced before, and it also comes with Spike’s established reputation as a destination for mixed martial arts programming thanks to the network’s past relationship with the UFC.

Obviously, Bellator must continue to put together intriguing, competitive stylistic match-ups that hardcore fans love and that casual spectators will enjoy, but that task presents no problems, especially given the promotion’s tournament format, which ensures that the best man always emerges as the No. 1 contender.

The question of whether the motivation persists relies on Bellator’s ability to keep matters out of the constant state of flux that always seems to result in the promotion switching networks. Right now, things are looking up. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and company have brought in recognizable names for the upcoming tournaments, they’re giving fans a voice in setting the welterweight tournament quarterfinal round match-ups, and they’re just plain excited to get started.

But when Bellator gets into the habit of seeing the grass as being greener on the other side of the fence and starts itching for a change in network homes, it loses interest in promoting its current product and shifts to promoting its future product, as was largely the case in season seven. With Spike, Bellator has quite likely found the greenest grass out there. Now, the promotion must put all its energy into maintaining the level of excitement it has stirred up for its upcoming eighth season and carry that beyond just its initial season on a new network.

As long as Bellator sees Spike as its ideal home and does what it needs to do to keep the network interested in expanding the broadcast deal to the potential point of Bellator becoming a cornerstone of Spike’s programming, then the sky’s the limit for the promotion, and we should not find ourselves surprised if Bellator can find a way to ascend to unimaginable heights.

Photo: Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (black trunks), whose Bellator 85 title tilt against Rick Hawn will headline Bellator’s debut on Spike. (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.