For a while now, we have known that May 17, 2014 was going to be a monumental day in Bellator history. The promotion’s long-winding road to pay-per-view will finally reach its destination Saturday night. The scope of the entire event has changed over the past week, but the card will still air on pay-per-view. When the dust settles, there will be a new interim champion and a couple of new tournament winners. Of just as much significance, the MMA world will finally know whether Bellator can succeed on pay-per-view.

The jump to pay-per-view has been anything but smooth sailing for Bellator. This, the promotion’s second bid to make the transition, lost its headliner just last week when lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez had to pull out of the final chapter of his trilogy with Michael Chandler. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney had to be thinking, “Not again!”

When news broke last week that Alvarez might be pulling out of the fight, rumors began to circulate. Would Chandler remain on the card? Would the card remain on pay-per-view? These were the two main questions, and they were both valid questions.

The last time Bellator was set to debut on pay-per-view, a similar situation played out. In 2013, it was Tito Ortiz who had to pull out of his headlining bout with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson just a week before the event. Ultimately, Rampage was pulled from the card and the fights aired for free on Spike TV. Ironically, it was the second fight between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler that was bumped up to the main event that night. Now, Rampage gets to return the favor.

Bellator is staying on pay-per-view. The co-main event between Rampage and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal will move up to the headlining spot. Chandler will stay on the card, bump down a notch to the co-headliner and face Will Brooks for an interim lightweight title.

Bellator did not have a choice but to leave this card on pay-per-view. The promotion went to the well once before, only to reverse course when the main event crumbled. If Bellator wanted any future on pay-per-view, it had to continue with the plans. The cable providers couldn’t have been happy the first time that the promotion canceled, and if Bellator did it again, it would be very unlikely that any of the providers would even pick up another Bellator pay-per-view venture.

The second reason why Bellator couldn’t cancel is one that has been largely overlooked—it would devalue the product greatly. Fans and media had already debated whether this event was even worth the cost. Bellator stacked the card and told fans that they would be paying for a great event, not just one fight. If the promotion would have made the card free with just Alvarez dropping out, wouldn’t it just prove that Bellator didn’t believe its own hype?

Although Bellator is sticking to its plan to present the show as a pay-per-view, there is the matter of the price point. Rebney has revealed that the promotion is leaving the final decision on the price in the hands of the individual cable providers, but that doesn’t mean a reduced price isn’t in order.

Bellator has been a free product from the beginning. The promotion can get into the pay-per-view business with a great card—this is still a very solid card—but the key to getting people to purchase the event is value. If fans were charged around $25 or $30 for the event, they would probably be more willing to part with their money. Some of the UFC pay-per-view cards haven’t been the best recently, and if fans had the option of buying a card of similar quality for a better price, they might be tempted to jump on it.

Bellator could make up for the price decrease with an increase in number of buys if it offered the card at a more reasonable price. Once the promotion gives fans a deal like that, those same fans would be more willing to buy additional pay-per-views in the future.

With all of that said, a good number of people will still buy Bellator 120, and the number of the people that buy this event on pay-per-view will ultimately dictate its success.

Some have said that the event can still be a success if it is just a great night of fights. The people who say that are simply wrong. Put simply, Bellator 120 could be an amazing event full of “Fight of the Year” candidates, but if only 20,000 people buy it, then it is a failure. In any form of entertainment, the product can be great, but if no one sees that product then it doesn’t matter. For this event to be considered a success, it needs to exceed 50,000 buys and draw close to 75,000. Those are reasonable expectations, and 100,000 buys would not have been out of the question if Alvarez and Chandler were still the main event. If somehow the event does still exceed six figures, which would put it in similar territory to that of Affliction’s 2008 pay-per-view effort, then it is a slam dunk. Such an outcome could represent a bit of a double-edged sword, however.

With Alvarez and Chandler at the top of the card, Bellator could take all of the credit. Both were homegrown guys, and to have people forking over cash at such a high rate to see them would have been huge. Now, though, the event is bracing itself on the likes of Rampage, King Mo and Tito Ortiz. All of those men made their names outside of the organization, and many would argue that all three are past their prime. However, those fighters remain vital for Bellator.

People have completely overlooked Ortiz’s involvement in this card, and the promotion hasn’t really capitalized on it either. Say what you will about Ortiz, but he is still one of the top five most recognizable names in the history of MMA. People will still drop money down to see this guy fight. Others say that Ortiz beating Bellator’s middleweight champion, Alexander Shlemenko, would be a big blow to Bellator, but that’s not true. If Tito wins, he instantly becomes more marketable for future cards. If Shlemenko loses, then he lost to a guy who will probably be at least 30 pounds heavier than him when they step inside the cage.

The only debilitating result on the card would be if Brooks defeated Chandler. Bellator would surely have a new star on its hands, but regardless of how good Brooks looks and how good of a fighter he is, a fight between Brooks and Alvarez just wouldn’t have the same luster as the final chapter of the Alvarez-Chandler trilogy.

Bellator has gone through hell to get here, and Saturday is the biggest night in the promotion’s history. The company needs a lot of things to go right. It needs that 50,000 buyrate. It needs a Chandler win. It could actually use a Tito win. All of those things would make the future even brighter.

In the past, I’ve said Bellator should put on two or three pay-per-view cards a year, consisting of either season premieres or finales. If it finds success on Saturday, just think of what could be in store for the future. Imagine, later this fall, a Bellator lineup that includes Rampage Jackson against Tito Ortiz for the light heavyweight title, Pat Curran in a fourth outing against Daniel Straus, promotional welterweight kingpin Douglas Lima battling middleweight champ Shlemenko in a superfight and, finally, Alvarez and Chandler engaging in their rubber match. Now that would be an event that can’t fail.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.