Thursday, July 24, 2014

Outside the Octagon: Bellator's Business Strategy

In my column, I usually write about the UFC, but this week I wanted to change it up and talk about one of the UFC’s rival organizations Bellator.  Bellator is a much smaller organization and doesn’t have the same star power as UFC.  A lot of times, when Bellator’s best fighters’ contracts are up the UFC will sign them.  Recently, Bellator has been signing a lot of former UFC athletes.  Personally, I do not believe this is the best business strategy.

There is an exception to my opinion, when Bellator tries to sign quality and rising stars from the UFC.  Most notably for this was their pursuit of Gilbert Melendez.  He is one of the top competitors in his weight class and would help improve the overall quality of the fighters in Bellator.  If they can be seen as a viable option for a fighter whose contract is up, Bellator could start to become a more competitive organization.

 Most of Bellator’s UFC signings have been fighters way past their prime.  These signings include Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, and Cheick Kongo.  Jackson might be able to bring in large crowds because of his popularity, but he, Ortiz, and Kongo are only in Bellator since they can no longer compete with the high level of fighters in the UFC.  This reminds me of when former baseball stars are now in the minors.  Fans will go see them, but only to remember him as whom he was in the majors not as part of the minor league team. 

Bellator has also signed fighters with issues both inside and outside the octagon.  This week they brought back Paul Daley.  He was kicked out of the UFC for punching a fighter after the fight was over.  Signing fighters who have proved to be liabilities in the past does not help improve the Bellator brand.

In the end, I think it is going to be hard for Bellator to ever be considered on the same level as the UFC.  The UFC has been around longer and has grown a huge fan base.  It would be hard to convert a causal UFC fan into a Bellator fan.  Bellator needs to do something big and unique to help grow their brand.  One way to do this would be to create an organization vs. organization event.  The best of both leagues against each other to prove whose fighters are better.   I doubt this would ever happen, but if it did it is a good way for Bellator to prove their fighters are just as good as the UFC’s.  

 Greg Monforte is a Drexel University Sport Management pre-junior from South Jersey.  Currently he works at Not Just Pizza in Sicklerville, NJ and Daddis Fight Camps in Philadelphia where he has social media and marketing responsibilities.  Greg is also the SMTSU Director of Marketing & Outreach.  Follow Greg on Twitter @Greg_Monforte.
Connect with Greg Monforte on LinkedIn. 

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