Once again the MMA world has been provided a compelling lesson on the differences between the hardcore MMA fanbase and the casual one, as Bellator is reporting that Tito Ortiz versus Stephan Bonnar drew big ratings for Spike. As in, real, large ratings, rather than just numbers that have been spun by a marketing department into something ‘spectacular.’
Yes, according to a press release from Bellator, Saturday’s November 15th card averaged 1,241,299 viewers. Now, any time you crack the million viewer mark in this day and age, that’s a success. Particularly for a card that doesn’t include the letters U, F,C.
The numbers get even more impressive, however, in terms of the headliner. According to the announcement, the Ortiz-Bonnar scrap drew an average of 1.8 million viewers. The broadcast’s peak was at 2 million viewers, which of course, took place during the main event.
So, as a result of these sizeable figures, Bellator 131 is now the second most watched, MMA broadcast this year for men 18-34 and men 18-49 (according to the press release). Now that is pretty big for Bellator, even if it’s pretty surprising news for the MMA industry.
The promotion’s president Scott Coker was quoted saying in the press release:
“Bellator 131 was an incredible event that had something for everybody, and I’m thrilled to see our efforts were so well-received by our fans,” said Coker. “I’m very proud of our entire Bellator and Spike family for all of the hard work they put resulting in these record-breaking ratings. The most exciting thing for me is the knowledge that that we are just getting started, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what we have in store for the future.”
What can be learned from all this? As you likely know, many fans and pundits relentlessly fired away at the Ortiz-Bonnar bout heading into the event, as after all, both men are far removed from their peak years as fighters. The fight’s well documented, and extremely bizarre announcement / incident, was also widely panned (and this writer contributed to that criticism…).
But, clearly Ortiz and Bonnar are still capable of generating plenty of interest with casual fans, and people still want to see them fight. In addition, the fight was likely watched by tons of hardcore fans as well, even if they understood that the bout meant very little, in terms of the sport’s 205 rankings etc.
The fact that the card also included a pivotal scrap between talented lightweights in Will Brooks and Michael Chandler, as well as fight with “King Mo” Lawal, couldn’t have hurt either.
Now it will be interesting to see whether and how Coker can build on this success.