Just about everything major that could go wrong did on Friday night, leaving Bellator with its second-lowest rated live episode since going on MTV2.
Only 105,000 viewers, down 36 percent from what has been the average this season, saw the next-to-last live event on the station. The show was on both in a different time slot and lost its main event.
The scheduled headliner, a featherweight tournament final fight with Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez, was canceled by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board just minutes before the fight was about to start. The commission ruled that Shamhalaev, throwing up backstage while suffering from food poisoning, was in no shape to fight. This left the promotion having to put a preliminary match on television in its place.
Normally that would be bad enough, but the show also aired one hour earlier than usual. Changes in time slot for weekly shows usually result in a ratings drop since most viewers are creatures of habit. The decline was both understandable and expected.
The only Bellator event on MTV2 that drew a lower rating live was Bellator 53 on Oct. 9, 2011, which did 103,000 viewers. That show went head-to-head with the UFC 136 pay-per-view and ended up doing 120,000 viewers for a 1 a.m. replay showing after the UFC event concluded.
Bellator's final event on MTV2 is also the current season finale and will air Friday night from Hammond, Ind., featuring Richard Hale (21-4-1) vs. Alexander Volkov (18-3) for the company's vacant heavyweight title in a tournament final. The event also features a lightweight tournament final putting submission expert Marcin Held (15-2) vs. Dave Jansen (19-2). The winner of that fight will face the winner of the Michael Chandler vs. Rick Hawn lightweight title fight that takes place on Jan. 17, when Bellator debuts on Spike TV.