As the longstanding relationship between the UFC
and Spike TV comes to an end this year, Spike is reaching out to Bellator
Fighting Championships as it looks to stay in the MMA
market. And in the strongest sign yet of Spike and Bellator developing a partnership, the promotion announced Tuesday that its undercard fights will be streamed online at Spike.com.
Bellator already had a relationship with Spike's parent company, MTV Networks, because Bellator's Saturday night fight cards are televised by MTV2. Erik Flannigan, the executive V.P. of Digital Entertainment for MTV Networks, said it's a natural fit for Spike.com to bolster that relationship.
"Fight fans have been coming to our site for years for great mixed martial arts clips and information," Flannigan said in the network's announcement. "Now we are thrilled to provide them with action-packed live fighting each week."
For Bellator promoter Bjorn Rebney
, getting closer to the longtime basic cable home of the UFC has to be considered a major step forward for his fledgling promotion.
"We are thrilled to join forces with Spike.com," said Rebney. "The Spike brand is synonymous with mixed martial arts worldwide and is another member of the MTV family, who does an incredible job in resonating with the hard-to-reach 18-to-34-year-old male audience."
The live streams on Spike.com will begin this Saturday and continue throughout Bellator's fifth season, which means an already crowded fall MMA calendar will give fight fans will have even more Saturday MMA offerings than they had before. The big question is whether this announcement signals an even bigger deal between Bellator and Spike next year, when UFC programming has left Spike for FX, and Spike will be looking for new MMA content. If things go well for the rest of 2011, Bellator could find itself on Spike TV in 2012.