Bellator Is the TNA of MMA
There was a period, roughly around 2007 to 2008, where Total Nonstop Action Impact Wrestling was, in terms of work rate and storylines, a better show than anything WWE was producing. The WWE hadn’t totally realized what a truly special talent CM Punk was, their top guys were top guys from 2002, and the storylines seemed to be all about either John Cena or Triple H. TNA on the other hand had some really special talent. Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christian Cage, Kurt Angle, Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal; they had some interesting storylines happening, and while their ratings were nowhere near the WWE’s (they literally beat ECW, WWE’s third brand, ONE time in the ratings. ONCE), they were putting on good television.
Then TNA brought back Vince Russo, Dixie Carter, who knows nothing about pro wrestling got involved more and more, and then to top it all off, they fired Jim Cornette and Dutch Mantel, and brought in Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan. TNA is barely ahead of Ring of Honor ratings-wise, and in terms of show attendance, they’re probably the #4 promotion in the United States behind WWE, Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla.
I bring all this up because until a few years ago, Bellator was doing what TNA was doing 9 years ago in terms of competing with the UFC. UFC was bringing in more money and was the more recognizable name, sure, but by and large each month’s Bellator card was better than most UFC PPV cards and every UFC Fight Night in, say, 2012/2013.
However the past year has seen Bellator go the route TNA went: Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock (who was the main guy in TNA when it started up; he won their 2002 inaugural PPV’s event to determine the NWA World Heavyweight Champion), Royce Gracie, Dada, and Kimbo Slice are just a few of the names at the top of their cards recently, and never mind just how god awful the fights have been. Kimbo versus Shamrock was just an atrocity, to the point I thought it might be a work. Dada vs. Kimbo ended up with one of the fighters suffering cardiac arrest. And Tito Ortiz hasn’t been a good fighter since 2005. Period. This is exactly where TNA was in 2010. They had Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett, Mick Foley, etc. all headlining their “cards.”
By and large those shows were mostly unwatchable garbage because those people had no business being the focus of their promotion, and yet, here they were taking up all the oxygen. Bellator has some good fighters on the “undercards” of their fights, but holy fuck, they keep putting the old timer assholes at the top who couldn’t draw a dime with a silver crayon. If you want to be seen as an alternative to UFC, how about instead of using street fighter homeless people like Kimbo Slice, and former UFC greats who stopped being interesting before UFC got back on PPV (Tito and Ken and Royce), you build up your younger talent and get them to be seen as legitimate fighters alongside the Conors, the dos Anjos’, Holly Holm, to name a few?