At some point, you need to know what you’re made out of. This Saturday, that is what Bellator will learn when it dives head first into the realm of pay-per-view for the first time.

Bellator’s product has always been strong, but most of the promotion’s success has to do with the fact that its fights air live and free on cable television. Whether it was on Fox Sports, MTV2 or its current home on Spike TV, the product has been able to reach a reasonable number of viewers who are simply paying their cable bill, not shelling out additional cash for pay-per-view offerings. Although it came close to holding a pay-per-view one time before, Bellator has not required viewers to pay any additional fees for 119 events. That streak will end this Saturday, when fight fans who want to watch the main card of Bellator 120 will have to order the fights through pay-per-view.

Bellator did a great job putting together one of its strongest cards ever for this first-ever pay-per-view venture, only for the main event to fall apart late last week when headliner and lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez was forced off the card with a concussion. With the champ out, the promotion moved some pieces around and shuffled Will Brooks out of his scheduled bout with Nate Jolly and paired him against Michael Chandler for the interim championship. The light heavyweight tournament final between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal has been shifted to headlining status, and the heavyweight tournament final between Alexander Volkov and Blagoi Ivanov has been moved to the main card.

Collectively, the media and fans are wondering if this card still warrants Bellator making the jump to pay-per-view. Without the headlining showcase between Alvarez and Chandler, who have delivered outstanding fights the first two times they squared off, a number of potential viewers who would have ponied up for the pay-per-view are likely to save their money for another weekend.

Yet, it’s vital that the promotion moves forward with the pay-per-view at this point, with or without the trilogy fight headlining the card. The pros of leaping into the pay-per-view market definitely outweigh the cons.

Let’s say that the pay-per-view is a success and achieves a buyrate that pleases the executives. There are a number of good things that will come from it.

First, the pockets of those executives will be lined with a little bit more cash. More importantly, though, the success of the pay-per-view would greatly benefit Bellator as it moves into the future.

After a successful pay-per-view experience, Bellator would be able to attract free agent fighters. If a fighter has the proper leverage, they could negotiate a clause into their contract that guarantees them a certain percentage of money from pay-per-view buys. This is an extremely attractive perk to fighters who may have parted ways with the UFC, but still have a big enough fan base to be relevant within the sport. If Jake Shields, Yushin Okami or Melvin Guillard were offered contracts by Bellator in such a scenario, then they would likely be swayed to sign there, rather than with the World Series of Fighting, a promotion that has yet to dip its toes into the pay-per-view waters.

The simplest pro of all might might initially be viewed as a con. If the event is an absolute failure and posts a terrible buyrate, then Bellator can return back to its regular format on live cable television. It’s cable television that has brought Bellator to where it is today.

The final (but most important) reason Bellator should keep the pay-per-view status of the card intact is because the promotion doesn’t want to build the wrong reputation for itself. If Bellator had once again canceled the pay-per-view, it would have been the second aborted attempt at a pay-per-view launch. Talk about embarrassing. Bellator would be left to repair a reputation stained by failed attempts to take its product to the next level.

If, six months from now, the promotion tried again to roll out Rampage, Tito Ortiz and another buzzworthy headliner, the mixed martial arts community would simply roll their eyes again, wondering what would force the cancellation this time. UFC President Dana White or WSOF President Ray Sefo would have ammunition in the future to take aim against Bellator, joking with the media about the next pay-per-view and how it will collapse like a house of cards. Any upper-tier fighters who are being recruited to sign with Bellator with the promise of earning a cut of the pay-per-view pot down the road would laugh in the executives’ faces, knowing that the pay-per-view isn’t likely to actually take place.

Although the Bellator 120 card was a lot stronger with the headlining bout between Alvarez and Chandler, the revised lineup is still one of the stronger cards that the promotion has scheduled. Bellator needs to roll up its sleeves and really test the deep water, the way that many fighters have to at some point of their career. If Bellator really wants to take a big step forward and separate themselves from the pack to become the clear No. 2 promotion out there, this weekend’s show is a big step in the right direction. And keeping the event on pay-per-view is a wise move.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.