Imagine you’re one of the eight tournament participants in a Bellator bracket and you’re fighting on the same card as the rest of your tournament peers.

The other three tournament fights are main-card spectacles, featuring the marquee names from the tourney.

Then, there’s your fight. It’s on the preliminary card. It’s not on the Spike TV portion of the card, oh no. You’re fighting on in front of maybe half the audience that the main-card tournament fights attract. You’re missing out on fighting in front of a huge television audience, plus the potential extra sponsorship money that comes with a slot on a nationally televised sporting event and the attention that winning would give you heading into your next fight.

How would you feel?

What if you blazed a path to the tournament finals, or heck, what if you won the entire tournament and now you’re set to face the promotion’s champion? Not only is this scenario bad for you, it’s also bad for Bellator.

Bellator has had a few preliminary tournament fights so far, and it’s far from a pretty thing for the promotion. Having tournament participants on the preliminary card makes no sense and only begs the question: Why wouldn’t Bellator push a guy who is in its tournament and could possibly be its next champion?

This has now happened in the case of Emanuel Newton, one of Bellator’s light heavyweight tournament finalists.

Nobody expected much from Newton in this tournament, especially considering that Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal was fighting in the same bracket. King Mo was heavily promoted as the star of the tournament. Many people bought into the hype that was created, but Newton came out and beat Lawal. And he didn’t just beat him, he knocked him out.

But many people didn’t see Newton’s first fight. Why? Because his quarterfinal bout with Atanas Djambazov was on the prelims. And even in the cases of some of these prelims bouts earning airtime as a replay during the main card, fans have been conditioned to give less attention to prelim bouts. They didn’t air live, so therefore they must not be very important.

But everybody in the tournament format should be on a level playing field from a promotional standpoint, and that begins with giving each fight in the quarterfinal round a main-card billing. Why was this tournament finalist on the preliminary card? Why couldn’t the promotion just add one more fight and have a five-fight main card, or stagger the opening round bouts in a way that allows for all of the fights to remain on the main card? Were Newton and Djambazov not worthy of this based on their skills? Had Bellator already determined that they had no shot of advancing in the tournament? Are they boring? Why should anyone watch them if they are boring fighters? Why waste the time?

It just isn’t good business sense for Bellator, which is trying to compete with the big boys. The promotion’s entire premise is centered on these tournaments, and it needs to focus on the advertisement of the tournament participants. The promotion has a tournament that it pushes as “The Toughest in Sports,” and yet the fights are lacking in importance to the point where they land on the preliminary card?

This not only affects the company, but it affects the fighters. Whether it be in terms of sponsorship money or just something simple like growing their fan base, they suffer. And Bellator diminishes the importance of its own tournaments by acknowledging that the tourney bouts don’t all deserve national attention.

Bellator and Spike need to find a way to fit these fights on the main card, especially since it can result in an unknown challenger vying for a title or, even worse, a relatively unknown champion. Bellator should want to push these guys, not bury them on the preliminary card.

Photo: Newton (R) and Djambazov battle in the tournament, but on the prelims, at Bellator 85 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.

  • Robby Collins

    I think the hope is always that there will be enough finishes to replay the last tourney fight during the main card. Not sure how often this has panned out. The solution is to get back to 5-fight cards (that should be the minimum). Bellator is getting a 4-hour slot on Spike with the event replay, so why not allocate three hours to the live main card and reserve the last hour for a highlight recap? If the live event gets done in 2 hours or less, then can always replay the whole thing. As it is, they already mangle the replay so that they can add in endless commercials.