Bellator is set to have its first pay-per-view this Saturday. Everything seemed to be going Bellator’s way in the lead-up to this card, but now the excitement level for Bellator 120 is at an all-time low. Worse yet, two of the company’s major stars are the main reasons for that downturn in fan interest.

In the evening’s main event—or, now, former main event—Eddie Alvarez was scheduled to face Michael Chandler in a trilogy bout to end their rivalry. Alvarez was going to defend his lightweight title, but those plans fell apart when Alvarez was forced out of action due to a concussion. The Alvarez-Chandler rivalry was special. Their previous two meetings were some of the best fights MMA fans had ever seen, and it was a rivalry built upon competition rather than hatred. Now, instead of closure to their rivalry, we get Will Brooks stepping up to face Chandler in a contest for the Bellator interim lightweight belt.

Let’s not sugar coat anything here. Everyone can see Bellator is practically making up an interim title to retain meaning for this pay-per-view, while creating a “champion vs. champion” setup for a future pay-per-view. Although fans can easily see past the facade that promotions put forth, it’s quite another for the promotion’s fighters to put down the company.

“He’s angry because I beat him and I’m the champion, and he has to fight for a shitty belt that adds up to nothing.”

Those were the words of Alvarez while on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. With that one line, Alvarez completely threw Chandler and Brooks, along with Bellator, under the bus. If the guy who is one of the main attractions under the Bellator banner doesn’t care, why should we? Alvarez would go on to apologize for the comments, saying that he simply got caught up in the moment, but the damage was already done. Bellator doesn’t need to sell you on anything after you’ve made the purchase. The only thing they care about up until May 17 is getting you, the MMA fan, to buy in. That became even harder for the promotion with its best fighter dismissing the co-main event fight as a contest that doesn’t even matter.

Also not helping matters is former UFC champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Upon signing on the dotted line for Bellator, he instantly became one of the biggest stars in the promotion, if not the biggest star. One needs only look at the viewer totals for Jackson’s Bellator bouts compared to other cards to see the drawing power Rampage still possesses. One of the more outspoken stars in recent memory, he once again created headlines in the media.

Speaking to MMA Junkie, Rampage devalued the Bellator light heavyweight title.

“Emanuel [Newton] and I have the same coach. That’s going to divide our gym. I really don’t care for the belt,” he said.

That belt is the same one Jackson could potentially earn a shot at if he can defeat Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal at Bellator 120. It’s easy to see Rampage’s point of view. He doesn’t want to fight a teammate. But, why sign up for a tournament knowing that you could potentially face your teammate down the road? Rampage is a big enough name to where he wouldn’t have to worry about being inactive, so that isn’t the reason. Jackson is also notoriously anti-training, so he probably didn’t make this decision in order to stay active.

Maybe it’s for the big paycheck for winning the tournament? That’s the most likely scenario. After all, Rampage has always been vocal about his desire to get paid. There’s nothing wrong with him wanting to cash in on a big pay day, but this “grudge match” with Lawal could’ve been done outside the tournament format.

Even more odd than Rampage choosing to enter a tournament for a title shot that he doesn’t care about, is that Newton doesn’t seem to feel the same way. The Bellator light heavyweight champ has said he has no qualms with facing Jackson should he defeat Lawal. This has the potential to be a PR disaster for Bellator no matter who wins.

If Rampage wins, then a guy who doesn’t care about the title shot will have won a tournament designed to build new challengers. He will likely avoid facing a teammate, similar to the situations we’ve seen with American Kickboxing Academy fighters in the past.

If Lawal wins, it would mean we’d seen Lawal vs. Newton III. Anyone who has seen the first two fights between Lawal and Newton knows there’s no real reason to watch a third fight pairing the two light heavyweights.

Initially, the Bellator pay-per-view card had a number of fights that even casual MMA fans would tune in to see. Now, it’s nothing more than a patchwork job with a price tag, and a patchwork job that Bellator’s own fighters have found a way to discard as meaningless. It was a tough sell for fans accustomed to “UFC = MMA,” and now that the top two fights apparently have no meaning, I imagine we’ll see a low buyrate when the numbers are released.

  • Dick hertz

    alvarez is one of the best and will show it in the ufc . hopefully he can finish this trilogy with a win. I know that one of the few people that can beat him on a given day is chandler but alvarez has better skills and chandler is a little stronger which is hard to believe because alvarez bullies everyone around. honestly, I think and I hope alvarez beats chandlers a$$ because he is a real c@ck head. chandler has a lot of smack to say all the time and honestly he looks like a fat re-re.