Make enough noise and you might get noticed.

Bellator MMA, the No. 2 promotion in the world by default, has made plenty of noise recently. The organization has switched networks from MTV2 to Spike TV, has signed a number of high-profile talents and has launched a reality series—Fight Master—to compete with the UFC’s long-running The Ultimate Fighter. Although it seems to be working for the promotion right now, don’t expect it to pay off in the long run.

Among Bellator’s biggest roster moves are the signing of two men who can not only fight in the cage, but can entertain outside it as well. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson represent Bellator’s two biggest free agent signings to date. Lawal instantly saw his stock rise when he became the guy in Bellator before even stepping in the cage. His boxing looked improved during his debut, but King Mo eventually came crashing back to Earth courtesy of an Emanuel Newton spinning backfist. Lawal has since returned to put on an impressive showing in his most recent outing, but that was in a fight against Seth Petruzelli. Is Petruzelli the level of talent by which King Mo should be judged?

Then there’s Rampage. Jackson has already prompted more people to talk about Bellator in the last few weeks than had talked about the promotion in the past few years. He’s extremely happy to be out of the UFC, which, if you follow logical thinking, should lead to some improvement in Jackson’s overall performance in the cage. But Rampage is coming off some serious knee injuries and hasn’t been exciting at all in recent years. Part of that blame goes to Jackson’s opponents for employing “safe” game plans against the powerful puncher, but Rampage also shoulders some of the blame for not adapting his style.

Although there’s great hype surrounding Jackson’s entry into the Bellator cage and King Mo finally (possibly) capturing the light heavyweight championship, it’s all part of a marketing plan that’s bound to fail.

I can certainly appreciate what Bellator is doing by focusing on the fighter. After all, fighters are what fill the seats. It’s no secret that exciting or big-name fighters tend to draw more of a crowd. But by placing all its focus on the fighters, Bellator is removing that focus from the Bellator brand.

Yes, guys like King Mo and Rampage can definitely build the Bellator brand, but what happens when they lose? Just look at how quickly fans turned against Lawal after Emanuel Newton laid him out. All of a sudden Bellator was left with a star collecting a big check while falling down the light heavyweight rankings.

The same applies to Rampage. He was once one of the best 205-pound fighters in the world, but he is 2-3 in his last five fights, including three straight losses. Those two victories were also less than stellar and did little to make fans believe Rampage was back. Bellator is sure to get the hype train going once more for when Jackson’s Bellator debut. The promotion will prop him up as another MMA legend coming to enter the “toughest tournament in sports.”

Yet, all fans will be talking about is Rampage.

They’ll be talking about how Lawal and Jackson would make an interesting fight. They’ll be talking about how Rampage should just fight at heavyweight since he hates cutting weight so much and the heavyweight division is about as thin as wheat thin cracker. They’ll be talking about how Lawal and Jackson should team up in TNA or how both men will fare inside the squared circle as entertainers.

Notice how none of that involved Bellator?

That’s because Bellator has put so much attention and focus on the individual. Therefore, its brand as a whole suffers. The UFC got to be where it is for a number of reasons, but one of those is the whole concept of no one fighter being bigger than the UFC. That may not be true nowadays with guys like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, but for the most part, the UFC brand comes before the individual. People go to events, watch TV programming or buy pay-per-views because of the UFC brand. In fact, people may know what the UFC is, but not have a clue as to what MMA is.

Bellator has a lot of good fighters for those who have chosen to watch the program over the past few years. But people don’t tune in to watch Bellator because of the name on the cage. They tune in to watch because of the names of the fighters in the lineup. That has to change for Bellator to ever truly become competition to the mighty UFC.

It’s doubtful that Bellator will ever be able to overtake first place in the MMA world, but it can certainly make its place at No. 2 a concrete one. To do that, however, the promotion will need to realize that it should spend as much time promoting the Bellator brand as it does promoting guys who likely won’t even be around to see the company truly grow.

Photo: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.