Bellator’s Fight Master show is set to begin in June and recently the promotion leaked the names of contestants on the show. With programming similar to The Ultimate Fighter, can Fight Master provide a boost to Bellator much like we saw TUF give the UFC in the early 2000s?

At first glance, it seems that Fight Master can make an impact for Bellator. The promotion’s show has a number of factors going in its favor, not the least of which is the quality of coaches set to appear on the show. Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren are all set to coach a group of fighters looking to break into the Bellator cage. Couture, Jackson and Shamrock are all well-established names in the MMA world and Warren is one of Bellator’s “homegrown” superstars. With the drawing power these names present, fans will likely tune in out of pure curiosity to see these legends of the sport.

Another area where Bellator can succeed is in that the promotion and its broadcast partner, Spike TV, have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to MMA reality television programming. TUF has been on for quite some time and has enjoyed some incredible highs, but also some pitiful lows. Spike TV, having been the network home to TUF until recently, knows this firsthand. By looking at how the UFC has managed The Ultimate Fighter, Bellator can implement strategies that will increase both ratings and the overall quality of the product.

The best way that Bellator can implement its new reality series is during its off-season. Unlike the UFC and other major promotions, Bellator only runs shows every couple months as it continues to support the tournament format. By using this program when Bellator events are on hold, the promotion can still keep its name fresh in people’s minds. Bellator also will have a new crop of fighters ready to enter the Bellator cage by running the show during the off-season and then featuring the show’s best talent during its next season.

The major concern with Fight Master is that it’s something fans have seen for years. Part of what made The Ultimate Fighter so good in the beginning was that it was the first time reality television and fighting were mixed. We finally were able to see what happens before and after the cage door closes. Fight Master has a chance to develop some new gimmicks with the genre, but ultimately the basis of the show is putting a group of fighters together to compete for a chance at fame in the Bellator cage.

There’s also the brand factor as well. The UFC could literally slap its three letters on a pile of manure and people would buy it because of the brand name. The same cannot be said of Bellator. The promotion has recently seen a rise in both popularity and credibility after appearing on Spike TV, but ask any casual fan what Bellator is and you’ll receive the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Bellator will have some hurdles to overcome in the first season, and there certainly will be some bumps in the road ahead. But the opportunity is there to build both the brand name and introduce a new crop of fighters to MMA fans. The promotion prides itself on building stars in-house and Fight Master could become an essential “farm system” to help Bellator grow, both in the cage and outside of it.

Photo: Chris Lozano (Sherdog)