The marriage between Bellator and Spike TV is looking at a number of different ways of promoting and televising MMA programming, as well as creating unique match-ups.
A major idea being batted around includes using Bellator talent to either fight, or entertain, outside of just the company's television show. Besides a reality show that begins shooting in a few weeks, and cross-promotional efforts using King Mo Lawal in both pro wrestling and MMA, they are also looking at potential cross promotional ideas with Bellator and kickboxing.
Among the ideas are where Bellator talent, such as Paul Daley, who are strong stand-up fighters, could do kickboxing matches that would air on Spike. The ideas also include using stars in the kickboxing world who have had some MMA experience competing on Bellator shows. In the past with UFC, all fighters were under exclusive contracts that prohibited them from competing in any combat sports, as well as pro wrestling.
The ideas are just part of many new plans for a long-term vision of combat sports promotion on Spike TV now that their one-year non-compete term after the UFC contract expired is over.
Spike had previously announced a relationship with K-1, where they would air live kickboxing shows this year, but according to Kevin Kay, the president of Spike TV, that won't be happening.
"We're probably not going to move forward and continue with K-1," said Kay. "It was a little bit of an experiment. Those guys are great. We're trying to figure out our kickboxing plans. It did okay. It was a digital play (K-1 aired on Spike.com late 2012). There are other things we can do in the kickboxing spectrum."
While the name K-1 sounds like something, the actual K-1 organization that was huge in Japan from 1993 to 2010 is no more, with parent company FEG running out of money. The name was sold to a new group which has run some shows, but most of the top fighters from K-1 signed with the rival Glory promotion, which ran a New Year's Eve show in Japan.
While no deal is finalized, Kay did say that several Spike executives were at the Glory show at the Saitama Super Arena regarding a potential relationship.
"It was a great night of fights and we're impressed by the organization and continuing discussions," said Kay. "There are serious discussions also as well as discussions with Bjorn (Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney) with any potential partners we get into kickboxing with. Right now we're launching Bellator. We're all about Bellator. If we do end up in the Glory business, that's going to be a little later down the line. We don't want anything to get in the way of our launch with Bellator."
"We've got a different view on the fight business from the other guys (UFC)," said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. "If we can find the right kind of guys, we'd like those (kickboxing) promoters to keep our guys busy if they'd like to fight as kickboxers. And we'd also like to bring guys in from other organizations. It just depends on the right guys. Kickboxing is wildly fun to watch and it's exciting. Not all our guys can make a great transition from MMA to kickboxing, or from kickboxing to MMA. But for those who can, we'd like to bring that knockout excitement with them to our shows."
"A lot of those guys and a lot of guys in kickboxing have tried to make the crossover," Rebney noted. "I don't think as MMA continues to evolve, it becomes more difficult for guys from one discipline only having success. But there are guys with clear recognition, and there's a payoff for them. There's never a larger distribution platform than Spike TV. If we can find the right guys out there who can compete at a high level to make the transition, if they can stuff takedowns and have a ground game, then you've got something."
Glory's one-night heavyweight tournament winner, 6-foot-11, 292-pound Semmy Schilt, actually garnered his first fame in Japan as an MMA fighter with Pancrase and Pride, as well as with UFC. But once becoming a major star with K-1, he curtailed his MMA competition to concentrate on kickboxing, which was more lucrative for him at the time.