Bellator MMA’s recent extension of its broadcast deal with the BBC has generated a significant expansion of the promotion’s European and UK focused operations.
Originally formed in 2021, the collaboration ‘took a jump’ from the Channel 5 and Sky Sports deals, and was considered at the time, ‘a real statement of intent’ from the BBC.
Speaking to Insider Sport via GamblingTV – SBC’s video network – Head of Bellator Europe, David Green, discussed the growth of MMA in the continent, accrediting the BBC’s range of platforms as one of the main reasons behind this.
As the extension represents the progress of Bellator so far, Green stated: “When we started this deal with the BBC it was a bit of a leap of faith for both parties, and it was about understanding what could be done and how it could be achieved, and more importantly how the public viewed us and took to us on the platform.”
Throughout the pandemic, the promotion continued its events without an audience, of which David praised the organisation for its efforts. He added: “Bellator did a fantastic job of really setting up their stall.
“For me, the highlights were the three events we did in Europe at the end of the year; London at Wembley, Moscow which was our first time in Russia was fantastic, and then back to our old stomping ground in Dublin, which raised the roof for the last show of the year in the continent for us.”
With events being shown on the newly relaunched BBC Three channel and BBC iPlayer, Bellator will now benefit from coverage on a wider range of platforms. Green claimed: “That’s always been part of the attraction. One of the big reasons was not just the broadcast on BBC but its the amount of coverage the sport gets across the BBC platforms.
“When you look at all the things they offer, in terms of their websites. We had Michael Venom Page (MVP) on Radio 5 live over the weekend, we had the likes of Gary Lineker linking to it on match of the day – it just grows organically from the news that comes out of the shows, you get to get that cross platform promotion that pretty much only the BBC can offer.”
In choosing to stream on a Freeview channel over subscription, the organisation has broadened its viewership, and Green shared that it is extremely important to reach as many new audiences as possible.
In terms of Bellator’s key focus on European expansion over recent years, Green stated that the organisation is doing ‘huge’ shows, with one coming up this Friday in Dublin which sees Reigning Champion Gegard Mousasi face the Undefeated Austin Vanderford.
He explained: “This is a huge fight to bring to Europe. This is followed up by Heavyweight World Title Fight with Cheick Kongo and Ryan Bader in May in Paris, which is brilliant to bring to a big fight there.
“We’re bringing not only shows to Europe, but big tempo shows which are really good for the fans.”
Finally, in May, Londoner MVP challenges for the Championship which could be ‘pivotal’ to increasing UK fandom, along with the coverage by the BBC.
“Any time we do a big show in the UK or Europe it increases the fanbase, and I think if you were there for the show in October when MVP fought, we had Skepta walk him on and it was a huge moment, packed arena, really loud atmosphere,” Green concluded
“Any time people come to that, they buy into the whole Bellator experience, and we can do that again with a huge World Title fight in May.”