Though Bellator's first show of their season had great fights, the fledgling promotion still hit some bumps. Their partnership with Fox Sports didn't pan out as many MMA fans had hoped as many viewers found that the fights had been pre-empted by baseball and hockey.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney acknowledges that there are pros and cons to working with Fox, which supports 22 local affiliates.
"There are really good qualities to FSN in that you've got a hardcore sports fan that you're pulling from, but the disadvantage is that you've got 22 affiliate networks, and baseball season just kicked off," Rebney told Cagewriter. "We didn't have an exact read because we didn't know when the games would end. The intent was that the shows would run in its entirety right after the game ended."
Unfortunately, that didn't happen in Chicago, where the Georgi Karakhanyan/Bao Quach bout wasn't shown because the White Sox lost in extra innings. Rebney said that he is working with Fox to keep that from happening again.
"When you're juggling 22 different networks, you've got to work through those things. We've been on the phone with those guys at national FSN since early morning Monday just to get a read on it."
Those problems aside, Rebney is still thrilled with the way the first episode turned out.
"We had another 'Bellator moment' with Georgi Karakhanyan and Bao Quach -- I knew the fight was going to be good but I didn't think it was going to end that quickly -- that was magic. I thought Roger's fight with Chad would be good and exciting, and it was. I thought we got lucky on those two fights that they were compelling."
Rebney's focus is now on Thursday night's show, a bout card at the historic Chicago Theatre. This will be the first athletic event at the Chicago icon that is more accustomed to hosting Broadway plays and comedians than fighters.
He is excited to see U.S. Olympic wrestler Ben Askren (pictured) take to the cage. Askren was married just a few days ago.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Ben Askren and looking to see how he can do against a UFC veteran. The first time under the big lights, the first time on national television. He's got wicked, wicked confidence, and he exudes it. He believes that no one can beat him."
Cagewriter will have live, cageside coverage of Bellator from the Chicago Theatre on Thursday night.