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Bellator does 800,000 viewers for first installment of Dynamite

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Bellator

Bellator's first installment of what was hyped to be its signature event of the year, "Dynamite," may have set the company's records for live attendance and live gate, but didn't fare as well in the TV ratings.

The show, highlighted by a Tito Ortiz challenge to light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary and a four-man light heavyweight tournament, averaged 800,000 viewers between 9 p.m. as 12:42 a.m. The number was actually below the average of 892,000 viewers for Scott Coker's first year at the helm of the company.

The live event at the SAP Center in San Jose drew an estimated 11,000 fans, the most for an event in Bellator's six-and-a-half year history.

The company had hoped for success similar to the June 19 show, headlined by Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice, which averaged 1.58 million viewers and peaked at 2.1 million for the main event.

They didn't have two fighters with as big names to the public as Shamrock and Slice. Ortiz has a track record of being a drawing card in MMA, including setting what was then Bellator's record ratings of a 1.2 million average and 1.8 million viewers last November for his grudge match with Stephan Bonnar.

The goal was a multi-faceted show would have similar success.

The promotion was built around several things. The keys were a first big annual show, called Dynamite, a one-night light heavyweight tournament, Ortiz's name value and his going for a championship at the age of 40, putting kickboxing and MMA on the same stage and debuting former UFC stars Phil Davis and Josh Thomson.

But none of them, even the Ortiz main event, swelled the audience to any great degree after the show opened at about levels one would expect for such an event.

When looking at the ratings pattern for the show, the key was the lack of growth throughout the show.  The starting point was solid for a Bellator major show, which would then usually grow as bigger names appear later in the show. But that didn't happen here.

Another key was college football competition, most notably an Alabama vs. Mississippi game that did 7.6 million viewers on ESPN.

The verdict was that people were far more excited about a grudge match with all kinds of silly pro wrestling histrionics, against Bonnar, a well-known name, than a championship fight with McGeary, who is far lesser known.

The lead in and first few minutes of McGeary vs. Ortiz in the 12:15 to 12:30 a.m. time slot did 711,000 viewers, while the last few minute and post-match, from 12:30 a.m. to 12:42 a.m., did 807,000 viewers. While the late start of the main event likely hurt, UFC on Saturday night almost always has the main event going into the cage at about 12:30 a.m. There are UFC shows where the main event isn't the high viewership point of the show, due to the late start. But often it still is.

What that indicates is that at this point the public doesn't see the Bellator light heavyweight title as something that special, even though Ortiz was promoting hard the concept of being world champion once again. 

The show peaked early with the King Mo Lawal vs. Linton Vassell first round light heavyweight tournament fight doing 930,000 viewers. The Davis vs. Emanuel Newton fight that followed did 860,000 viewers.

The question as to whether mixing MMA with kickboxing was going to work or not went largely unanswered. The Keri Taylor-Melendez vs. Hadley Griffith fight did 848,000 viewers, or about the same as the Davis vs. Newton fight. The Paul Daley vs. Fernando Gonzalez fight did quarter hours of 835,000 and 870,000. So neither fight was a home run. Those are far larger numbers than Glory kickboxing usually does and people were not either tuning in or out in any great numbers. If anything, even the fact Melendez and Griffith had never fought on television, it doing almost the same numbers as part of the much promoted light heavyweight tournament would be considered a success.

The Josh Thomson vs. Mike Bronzoulis fight did quarter hours of 792,000 and 780,000 viewers from 10:45 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. at a time when viewership should be high. Similarly, the five-round kickboxing title match with Saulo Cavalari winning Glory's vacant light heavyweight title beating Zack Mwekassa, did quarter hours of 794,000 and 788,000 viewers. So those numbers held up even though neither man would have been known at all to the MMA audience.

The quick Davis vs. Francis Carmont light heavyweight tournament final did 690,000 viewers, which was the lowest quarter hour of the show. Very clearly, there was a disappointment with Lawal not being able to continue.