Esther Lin, MMAFighting.com
The long-discussed Bellator reality show has a name, coaching line-up and approximate air date. "Fight Master: Bellator MMA" was announced Tuesday at a press conference in Santa Monica, Calif. and according to Spike TV officials is set to debut in the summer.
The coaches for the inaugural season were both announced and on hand at the presser. They include former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy Couture, MMA coach Greg Jackson, former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren as well as former Strikeforce middleweight champion and UFC light heavyweight champion Frank Shamrock.
According to Spike TV Executive Vice President Sharon Levy, the series will begin with 32 welterweight fighters. Only 16 will make it into the 'compound', the training and living area that will house all fighter activity. From there, four separate camps will be created and the fighters will be allowed to choose the camp where they'd like to train.
"As the fighters' control their own destiny, they will need to utilize strategy in and out of the cage if they want to succeed and advance each week," said Levy. "The stakes are high and the wrong decision, whether it is picking an opponent you don't match up well against or a coach and fight camp that you don't work well with, can mean all the difference."
Taping is set to begin 'imminently' and the 10, one-hour episodes will begin airing sometime in the summer. Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith will serve as the show's host.
Tournament fights as part of the show will only be two rounds. The bouts will be regulated by the Louisiana State Boxing & Wrestling Commission.
The fighters will be competing for a spot in Bellator's welterweight tournament in the fall. The winners will receive $100,000 and a welterweight title shot.
Couture, who also served as a coach for the first season of UFC's 'The Ultimate Fighter' opposite Chuck Liddell, noted he was happy to be back in business with Spike and looking to grow the sport of MMA. "Now we have an opportunity again with Spike to create more opportunities for more fighters in the sport."
Spike also announced at Tuesday's press conference a multi-year partnership with Couture. The deal is described as a 'creative partnership' that includes multiple non-scripted projects, "two of much have been greenlit to air."
"We are thrilled to partner with such an emerging star in entertainment and an absolute icon in the sport of mixed martial arts," said Sharon Levy, Executive Vice President, Original Series, Spike TV.
The first of the two projects is the aforementioned 'Fight Master'. The second is being dubbed 'MMA Rescue' and will see Couture in a three-episode series help turn "struggling gyms into thriving enterprises." Couture is the owner of a chain of Xtreme Couture MMA gyms. The show has the option to go beyond the three, one-hour episodes and air dates are to be announced a later time.
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