Bellator Fighting Championships has decided that going head-to-head with the UFC is a losing battle.
The No. 2 MMA promotion in America announced that starting with its sixth season in the spring, Bellator's live fights will air on MTV2 on Friday nights. The first Bellator show of Season 6 will take place on March 2, and having the event on a Friday ensures that it won't take place simultaneously with a UFC pay-per-view, as Bellator often did this year.
However, the decision to move to Fridays may still mean going head-to-head with the UFC, as The Ultimate Fighter will move to a live format with fights on Friday nights on FX next year, and the UFC may also run some Fight Night-level shows on FX or Fuel TV on Friday nights. It's not clear yet whether Bellator and The Ultimate Fighter will air at the same time, but Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said his promotion views its events as distinct from reality television like The Ultimate Fighter.
"Our focus was to find the right night, where the largest number of MMA fans could enjoy the show," Rebney said in a statement. "We've been discussing this move with our partners at Viacom for months. When we looked at the alternatives, we agreed that Fridays provided a great night for us to reach MMA fans with our live, real sport, tournament events every week."
Bellator's Season 6 will feature tournaments in the featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight divisions, and one more tournament that the promotion has yet to determine. The season is also expected to feature title fights at bantamweight (Eduardo Dantas vs. Zach Makovsky), featherweight (Pat Curran vs. Joe Warren), welterweight (Douglas Lima vs. Ben Askren) and middleweight (Alexander Shlemenko vs. Hector Lombard).
Other fights planned for Bellator Season 6 include Shinya Aoki vs. Eddie Alvarez and a rematch of the Season 5 heavyweight tournament final, Eric Prindle vs. Thiago Santos, which was ruled a no contest.
Bellator should have a busy spring with plenty of big fights, but the big question is whether the promotion can differentiate itself from the UFC enough to make MMA fans notice. Moving to Fridays is an attempt to do that.