This week’s Ask MMA Recap question comes to us from Sean Dunn and asks an intriguing question. Sean asks, “Do you think the UFC will buy out Bellator at some point?”
With Dana White recently stating that he has no problems with Bellator and that he only goes after promotions that “start a fight”, one could think that the two promotions will co-exist for a while. But will that happen?
From what is known about Bellator, their financial situation is just ok at this point in time. All reports indicate that they aren’t losing money, but they aren’t making any either which is a dangerous line to be one. Thankfully Bellator was able to get to this point relatively early in its life.
Bellator’s roster has some great talent on it’s roster which makes the property somewhat valuable. Their champs like Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez, and Ben Askren could be good additions as well as fighters such as Pat Curran, Michael Chandler, and Ben Saunders.
The UFC has in the past bought out a promotion just to acquire a talent or two (WFA), but do they really need to have the fighters listed above fighting inside the octagon?
There’s obviously only two choices here, the UFC buys them, or they don’t. If Bellator keeps chugging along doing what they are doing without causing any controversy then they will maintain their number two status in the mma world.
But there’s two ways that the UFC could take notice and decide to squash Bellator: Bellator starts talking a lot of trash about the UFC or signs a big name fighter that the UFC was trying to sign (think Strikeforce getting Fedor) or Bellator’s financials don’t improve and the promotion has no choice but to sell (again, think Strikeforce).
Which scenario is most likely? In my opinion, it is that in the long run, unfortunately, the money is going to run out. Bellator is looking to put on around thirty shows a year with two full seasons of tournaments and one or two “summer/winter series” tournaments.
Just off of those tournaments alone the cost to just pay the winning fighters is around $250,000 per tournament. With four tournaments per season, plus two additional tournaments for the series events, we are looking at around $2.5 million just for the tournament winners per year.
That number doesn’t include any of the fighters who lose, it also doesn’t include any super fights or title fights or any of the undercard. It also doesn’t include any costs to run an event such as announcers, producers, athletic commissions, and so forth.
These estimated numbers are on the low end considering several reports about Bellator’s demise had the cost per show ranging from $200,000-$500,000. When there’s only a couple thousand fans (if that) in attendance, the live gate is not making up those costs.
Bellator has investors, and eventually if it doesn’t start to turn a profit, they will look to sell. It’s at this point that I can see the UFC purchasing the promotion for the contracts of roughly fifteen fighters, while the rest will likely be let go. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that Zuffa will want to run Bellator as a separate promotion like they said they were with Strikeforce.
I will say that I hope that Bellator is able to find a way to turn a profit soon. They put on a great show, have some fantastic talent, and it is ok to be the number two promotion. They will have to move to a different day of the week in order to avoid being counter programmed all the time by the UFC, but I think it can work.
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