In an effort to gain more attention, Bellator is doing what seemingly everyone who wants more attention does: starting their own reality show.

The promotion will be moving from MTV2 to Spike next year; the same network that originally aired The Ultimate Fighter, and will be hoping for a ratings boost. The most recent Bellator card, which saw welterweight champ Ben Askren defend his title against challenger Douglas Lima, averaged only 175,000 viewers. As a comparison, the UFC is averaging 1.2 million viewers for the current season of The Ultimate Fighter: Live on FX.

The main question surrounding the announcement of a Bellator reality show is: how will they separate themselves from TUF and create their own identity?

Should Bellator choose to follow the same format as their competition and offer a contract with the promotion, they can make a few small tweaks to the show that will give them a leg up on their competition.

For starters, they should add commentary to the fights.  There are a lot of would-be fight fans that just don’t understand everything that encompasses mixed martial arts. Certainly, everyone understands what a knockout is, but outside of the MMA diehards or jiu-jitsu practitioners, the average viewer wouldn’t know the difference between a kimura and a gogoplata. With the addition of commentary, Bellator will certainly steal the casual viewers from their more well-known counterpart.

Next, as those who tune in weekly to The Ultimate Fighter know, there can be awkward silences during the fights. With the only people in the gym being the two teams, the coaches and a few select UFC personnel, it can sometimes feel as though the viewer is watching two guys fight in an empty gym, and can come off as nothing more than a glorified sparring session.

If Bellator goes with the live format — and leaked results are not a concern — why not allow fans into the building to watch? By adding fans into the equation, there will be constant noise — with or without commentary — giving each fight a more meaningful feel.

With the fights being live, everything feels much more relevant. The knowledge that a fight is happening at that exact moment has a way of elevating its importance to the viewers. However, there has to be concern that with the semifinals coming just days before the show’s finale that someone is going to be injured, and not able to fight.

Bellator will need to weigh their options heavily. Which is more important: having live fights or risking that one of the fighters that earned their shot in the finale could be injured leading into the fight? If a fighter is unable to compete in the finale, does it render the previous 13 weeks meaningless?

Another concern facing Bellator’s reality show has to be the saturated MMA market. There’s a UFC pay-per-view every month, with cards on Fox, FX and Fuel to fill in when there’s not. Add Strikeforce, Bellator’s weekly cards, and other promotions popping up all the time, and even the biggest MMA fan can feel overwhelmed with content.

There’s no hiding the fact that the majority of the best talent in the world calls the UFC home. So what is going to make even the biggest of MMA fans tune in to watch a Bellator reality show?

Obviously, having the show air on the weekend isn’t an option. The easy solution would be airing the show in the middle of the week, when there is no other MMA-related competition.

The next step isn’t so simple, and would involve completely breaking the mold of The Ultimate Fighter. Bellator uses a tournament format to determine their title challengers, so rather than having another tournament where relatively unknown fighters are competing in a tournament for a contract with the promotion, showcase the talent that Bellator already possesses.

It doesn’t matter what promotion you’re talking about, the lightweight division is stacked wherever you go. Bellator should focus their first season of the reality show on the participants, as well as the current champ, in the lightweight tournament for next season. Have a camera crew follow the participants around in their daily life. Let the audience truly get to know Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, Lloyd Woodard and others away from the cage and form a personal attachment to these guys as they pour their blood, sweat and tears into their training. Show the viewers what it’s like to have to juggle a part time job as a bouncer or whatever else these guys do just to be able to afford to train to be a professional athlete.

Rather than taking these guys away from their reality, only to seclude them from the real world — which let’s be real, no internet, television or communication with the outside world is far from reality — and film them living their day-to-day lives, battling with real life situations, all while being one of the top lightweights in the world.

Life is all about personal attachments. When fans tune into UFC Primetime, they’re forming personal attachments to the fighters. They see these fighters that seem super-human inside the cage, in everyday situations become humanized.

Whether it’s Carlos Condit playing with his son at the gym, or Cain Velasquez bringing his daughter to an amusement park, these are every day behaviors that fans identify with; therefore forming a connection with someone whom they don’t think they share anything in common. This is the type of connection needed to keep viewers coming back week after week, and choosing to watch your show, rather than your competitor’s.

Bellator has an excellent opportunity to revolutionize a market that is dominated by their biggest competitor, and to allow fans to regularly see the best fighters in the promotion in a different light. The market is saturated with reality TV. Duck hunters, pawn shops, and Kardashians are flooding our lives with their own. The one thing the reality television audience doesn’t have is a show detailing the real life of professional athletes.

Should Bellator decide to forgo the model created by the UFC, and showcase the talent they already have, the UFC and Zuffa may finally have some competition.

Photo: Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (William Musacchia/Sherdog)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.