I have to confess that I had taken my eyes off all things Bellator the last couple of weeks, so the news that they have finalised a deal with Sky Sports came like a bolt from the blue to me. This is very significant news for Irish and UK fighters.
The initial deal seems to be on a 20 event basis that will comprise about 1 year’s worth of MMA coverage. I am going to quote directly from the press release at this point to highlight just exactly what this entails
Under the partnership, Sky Sports will broadcast a minimum of 20 US and international Bellator events live to a UK and Ireland audience, starting with the highly anticipated Bellator 216: MVP vs. Daley, which takes place on Saturday, February 16, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
It is important to note that the 20 events are not specifically for UK and Irish events but there can be little doubt that coverage from these Isles will feature heavily. In fact Bellator reference the Dublin event, Bellator 217 on the initial press release.
It should be noted that many of the events will be on the late night schedule particularly with the US based shows.
The partnership will also see Sky Sports broadcast Bellator 217: Gallagher vs. Graham live from the 3 Arena on Saturday, February 23 at 9 p.m. GMT.
UK and Irish fans will witness Ireland’s own James Gallagher take on Steven Graham in Gallagher’s hometown of Dublin, with a host of international and homegrown talent joining them on the card.
In addition to this we have the welcome announcement that Channel 5 are going to be investing in 6 UK and European Bellator events. These are going to be in prime time slots on Saturday/Sunday nights. Channel 5 have form in Combat sports and have had success backing Tyson Fury previously and drawing in multi-million viewing figures. The Bellator statement on this is as follows.
The announcement earlier this week that free-to-air Channel 5 will televise a minimum of six UK and European Bellator events, in what has been a ground-breaking few days for British and Irish MMA fans.
What I would take from all of the TV announcements is that there will be enough events and enough publicity for professional MMA fighters to start making some decent money. Not life changing income perhaps but enough to hopefully allow them to actually pursue it full-time with out recourse to having to work.
With access to TV audiences the fighters should be able to entertain hopes of larger personal sponsorship deals.
The sad reality is that the majority of professional MMA fighters do not make anything like enough money to make a decent living from the sport. Most are earning a living outside the sport.
The SKY deal will hopefully a step in the right direction for Irish and UK fighters that in time a larger proportion of the athletes can completely focus on it full-time. With the deals in place it is now up to the athletes to show case the sport and bring in a larger audience. And I have little doubt that they will.