Top 3 MMA Business Moves in 2011

2011 was a banner year for MMA, and 2012 is poised to be even better! There were lots of moves made that will have far-reaching effects for the sport. Here are the top three:

3. Viacom buys Bellator
Bellator has been slowly building it’s brand on the national stage. From airing on Fox Sports (PrimeTicket in some areas) with recaps late night on NBC weekends to MTV2, they’ve never stopped putting on great events with great attendance. The talent pool is very deep, and they’ve been aggressively pursuing new, world-class fighters. This move puts their trajectory into turbo mode with the marketing/promotion muscle that Viacom possesses. They’ve got everything just about perfect and did you know, btw, that they now have a bigger corporate partner than the UFC? If you’ve been sleeping on Bellator: wake the f23k up! They are gonna be making moves in 2012 and beyond.

2. UFC on Fox
There’s no question who the big boy on the block is in MMA and Zuffa is it. Acquiring Strikeforce was a bit of a surprise, given how many fighters there had been, if not officially, unofficially banned from the Octagon™ but even that was dwarfed by the UFC on Fox deal. With seemingly all of the Fox channels getting in on the action (how long until Jacob Volkmann has his own show on Fox News?) and the huge sports presence of the Network, this deal will bring all of MMA up with it. The first show paid off big with new fans, many of whom enjoyed the backstories of the fighters and the practically 360-degree coverage almost as much as the fight itself, and after a huge New Years’ event PPV, it is clear to see that the rockets are firing and we are about to lift-off.

But the biggest long-term business move, in my not-so-humble opinion:

3. Undercard broadcasts
I have to say that the best thing to happen to MMA in the last year or so has to be the number of broadcast undercard bouts from so many promotions, whether streamed or televised. It gives so many more martial artists the exposure that is almost as important as their record for them to succeed. And it give the fans (us) that much more MMA to enjoy! It helps, of course, that the matches have been very good, often putting pressure on the main card to produce something as exciting. UFC, Bellator and now Showtime will all be airing these fights, and many of them end up in the main broadcast and fit right in. I’m sure this affects the local turnout. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that audiences are showing up earlier now that they know how good the prelim matches are…

All in all, 2011 was a very good year and 2012 promises to be even better. It’ll be real interesting to see how these things play out and what moves get made in the next 12 months.