It’s been a tumultuous couple of days for Bellator, just a week before the promotion was to make its maiden voyage into the pay-per-view market. MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani broke the news Friday that Bellator 106 headliner Tito Ortiz, who was to face Quinton Jackson in Long Beach, California on Nov. 2, was being forced off the card with a neck injury.
Later in the afternoon, Bellator hosted a media call to address the injury, and to counter the bad news with a big silver lining. With no Ortiz-Rampage main event, the rest of the stacked card -- which showcases a rematch between former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and current champion Michael Chandler -- will now move to Spike TV, where it will air for free beginning at 9pm EST.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and Spike TV executive Kevin Kay both sat in on the call to officially announce that the stacked card would be moving to Spike TV.
"I’ve got bad news, and I’ve got great news," began Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. "The bad news is that I can confirm that Tito has fractured his neck and will be unable to fight next Saturday. His doctors confirmed that fighting with Tito right now could have dire consequences, so Tito is off the card and our thoughts and prayers are with him in what we hope will be a great and full recovery.
"The great news that I’ve got, because I’ve got the greatest partners on Earth at Spike and Viacom like Kevin Kay and people like Wade Davis, we’re going to give Chandler-Alvarez II for the lightweight title, [Muhammad Lawal] versus [Emanuel] Newton II for the light heavyweight interim world title, [Pat] Curran versus [Daniel] Strauss II for the featherweight world title, and a bevy of other really great fights, all to the best MMA fans on Earth, for free on Spike TV, Saturday night at 9 o’clock Eastern time."
Rebney said that the "Fight Master" finale between Joe Riggs and Mike Bronzoulis would be moved to the main card and appear on the televised portion of the event, along with the heavyweight tilt between Cheick Kongo and Vinicius Queiroz. The telecast will be preceded by two hours of preliminary action beginning at 7pm Eastern Time at Bellator.com.
Rebney said that Bellator had considered the possibility of a fallout with Ortiz and Jackson, and had spoken at least preemptively with its current 205-pound champion Attila Vegh as a possible alternate. That was five weeks ago, but that it opted ultimately to show the card for free on Spike TV.
"We will do pay-per-views -- there will be PPVs under the Bellator banner, but sitting down literally for the last 24 hours and talking to Kevin and the entire team over at Spike and my whole team, it just made sense to keep this literally where it is right now, to give fans these great fights for free."
Rebney said he was unsure how long the 38-year old Ortiz would be sidelined "a significant amount of time" with the neck fracture, possibly more than six months before they can better evaluate. As for Jackson, Rebney said that the sooner they can book him into another fight the better.
"On the Rampage front, literally as quickly as possible," he said. "Obviously there have been a lot of moving parts with Kevin and I and the team and Spike and Bellator and everybody working together to put this magical show on Spike TV for free, but don’t think that we’re not thinking about Rampage and we’re hopefully going to be in a position in the next week to make some great announcements on that as well."
Rebney said that anybody who had already purchased the Nov. 2 PPV will be reimbursed in full.