Bellator’s British Invasion has come and gone, and with it, the first “tentpole” event the promotion has offered in 2015. Long gone are the tournaments, here to stay is the spectacle (and even should tournaments return, they may be spectacle based, as talk of a one-night tournament in Bellator was brought up recently by none other than Scott Coker himself).

So where is Bellator following their first big event of 2015?

Good question.

There was no press release heralding the success of the show, as their was with Bellator 131 (Tito vs. Bonnar). That broke ratings records, but you can pretty much thank Ortiz for that. Instead, the big news coming out of the event was that Kimbo Slice, recently having signed with the promotion, would be taking on 51 year old Ken Shamrock in the biggest freakshow fight in recent memory (stayed tuned, folks, this one will likely wind up as a Freakshow Fight of the Week on The MMA Corner at some point!).

That seems like something of a desperation move. Ratings? Yes, it will draw them in. Long-term business plan? Lets hope this is just “filling time” while Scott Coker tries to unfurl his vision.

Because frankly, Bellator MMA today is pretty much where it was a year ago. In fact, it may even be slightly worse off, and as a result, it seems swapping Rebney for Coker was little more than a trade-off at best, if not a step backwards.

Why’s that? Ratings-wise, the overnights for Friday’s British Invasion look like this: a 0.4 in adults 18-49, with 872,000 viewers overall. That includes all live and same-day viewings. PVR viewings the next day could increase it a little, but just about a year ago, Rampage Jackson was pulling 880,000 while headlining Bellator 110. The same Rampage Jackson that Bellator under Scott Coker managed to let slip away — and are now attempting to bring an injunction against to prevent him from fighting for rival UFC. Bellator 115, meanwhile, featuring Minakov vs. Kongo, pulled 874,000 viewers.

To put things in perspective, the 0.4 rating has Bellator 134 ranked alongside Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives — but Triple D pulled in more viewers overall.

On the flip-side, that’s the highest rated Bellator event this year so far. It still, unfortunately, isnt’ where you want a “tentpole” event to be.

Now, it’s clear that the British Invasion was hurt by injury, and no matter how you sell it, King Mo vs. Cheick Kongo was a dull fight, with neither fighter having the draw Rampage does, even against someone like his Bellator 110 opponent Christian M’Pumbu. The promotion no doubt knows this, which is all the more reason why they’re willing to take legal action against Jackson, after letting a similarly unhappy Eddie Alvarez walk last summer (it should be noted, however, that the Alvarez situation was a mess Scott Coker had walked into, not created, and he no doubt chose what he thought was the best course of action at the time). Emanuel Newton vs. Liam McGeary was a fun fight for hardcore MMA types (and screams for an eventual rematch), and Paul Daley was as exciting as ever, but in essence, the card didn’t have nearly the mainstream appeal the promotion no doubt hoped it would — and it certainly showed in the ratings.

Now, ratings aren’t everything, but they’re pretty darn close when you’re a company who more or less lives and dies by its deal with Spike TV, and the only saving grace is likely that parent company Viacom owns both.

At the heart of the matter is this: Bellator just doesn’t have the star power right now. For various reasons, they’ve lost Ben Askren (who has really learned how to self-promote over the past year or two), Eddie Alvarez, and Rampage Jackson. They almost had the steal of the century with Gilbert Melendez, but the UFC matched their offer, as was their right to do.

All this leaves Bellator as a promotion looking to throw names, any names, at the wall, and see what sticks. Look no further than Kendall Grove being awarded a title shot: Grove, while a decent fighter, is just 2-1 in Bellator MMA and sandwiched the loss between the two wins, meaning he’s yet to go on a streak in the promotion. Surely, speaking in terms of sporting merit, there were more worthy challengers to face middleweight champ Brandon Halsey.

However, Grove’s name value, coming almost solely from his time with the UFC, gets him a shot. Like it got Joey Beltran a shot.

From a sporting perspective, Bellator is almost completely without merit at the moment. Without tournaments to build up and legitimize homegrown stars, lesser-known fighters have little chance of standing out. Though the tournaments could be troublesome by eliminating fighters who already had somewhat marketable names, they may in fact have been preferable to the current situation.

Things are not all doom and gloom, however. As a whole, the bulk of the shows that have featured Coker at the helm have averaged above 700,000 viewers, and it should be noted that some of those shows were essentially booked prior to his arrival. Yet judging by 2015 so far, where the other ratings numbers have been 767,000 for Bellator 132 and 565,000 for Bellator 133, Coker and co. have yet to significantly raise overall interest in the promotion, which is a problem.

When it comes to Bellator 2015, it’s really just so far, so good, so what. The new boss isn’t exactly the same as the old boss, but we’re still waiting for meaningful results, more meaningful fights, and a sense of where the company is headed.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.