By: Glen Howie
A breakdown and diatribe explaining why Bellator is a shady promotion. If you think Bellator is the bee’s knees, then I submit that you aren’t well educated on the promotion, or their tactics.
- Let’s start with pay. Many people who are unfamiliar with the actual salaries in Bellator, think that Bellator pays well. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are people fighting in Bellator for ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. A thousand bucks to fight.
Publicly disclosed salaries from the most recent Bellator events I could find:
- Bellator 165 – November 19, 2016 – Cesar Gonzalez made $1,000 in his fight with Hugo Lujan.
- Bellator 165 – November 19, 2016 – Victor Jones made $1,000 in his fight with Beau Hamilton.
- Bellator 165 – November 19, 2016 – Luis Vargas made $1,000 in his fight with J.J. Okanovich.
- Bellator 165 – November 19, 2016 – Justin Roswell made $1,000 in his fight with Dominic Sumner.
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – Dominic Sumner made $1,000 in his fight with Abraham Vaesau.
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – Luis Vargas made $1,000 in his fight with Juan Cardenas.
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – Roque Reyes made $1,000 in his fight with Justin Tenedora.
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – Abner Perez made $1,000 in his fight with Gaston Bolanos.
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – Cesar Gonzalez made $1,000 in his fight with Nikko Jackson.
- Bellator 183 – September 23, 2017 – Anthony Castrejon made $1,000 in his fight with Daniel Gonzalez.
Note that the above data not only proves that Bellator is paying horribly low rates for their lowest ranked fighters, but that they are NOT increasing pay, event over event for fighters they are employing. Luis Vargas and Cesar Gonzalez have both been paid one thousand dollars, TWICE in a row.
For reference, the lowest pay in the UFC at the moment is $12,500/$12,500 win/show. On top of that there is no bonus structure in Bellator. Thus no matter how epic a fight is, or how impressive a finish is, the fighters are not being paid any disclosed bonuses for their work.
A handful of fighters in Bellator (around a dozen) are paid comparably to UFC fighters. Everyone else is paid quite poorly. And Bellator is owned by Viacom, a company with very, very, very deep pockets. They simply don’t pay reasonably, and thus they don’t care about the well being of the fighters they employ.
Additionally, the entire payout for the same 3 Bellator events listed above was as follows:
- Bellator 165 – November 19, 2016 – $361,500.00
- Bellator 172 – February 18, 2017 – $379,200.00
- Bellator 183 – September 23, 2017 – $513,500.00
In comparison, UFC payouts from the same pay periods.
- UFC Fight Night 100 – November 19, 2016 – $1,190,000.00
- UFC Fight Night 100 – February 19, 2017 – $1,308,500.00
- UFC Fight Night 117 – September 23, 2017 – $942,000.00
Note that the payouts for UFC events held on the same dates are two to four times as much.
The above pay figures are all publicly disclosed information. There are no assumptions being made. These are stone cold facts.
Now I know at this point, many people will be trumpeting the usual statement about how “Bellator allows guys to have sponsorships”, and they’ll go on to state how fighters make a ton of money from sponsorships. And yes, Bellator absolutely does allow fighters to have sponsorships. And yes, they may be lucrative for some top tier fighters. But they come nowhere near making up the wage gap. Sponsorships COST money to acquire. They require work – be that the work of a manager who takes a percentage, or the work of the fighters themselves. They require work after fights, to get the promised payouts. And they are far, far less lucrative than most fans understand.
If you take the Josh Thomson example, he went from making $85,000/$85,000 PLUS Reebok, in his final UFC fight, to making $10,000 flat plus sponsorship in his first Bellator fight. By his own admission he made $35,000 in sponsorship for that first Bellator fight. For a net loss of MORE THAN $40,000 in his first Bellator fight. He was also ineligible for a performance of the night bonus in that first Bellator fight, since Bellator does not have that structure in place. He was also without the UFC health insurance policy for that fight (more on that later).
- Secondly matchmaking. Bellator matchmaking is sad, dishonest and worst of all, predatory. Rich Chou, the Bellator matchmaker cares nothing about setting up legitimate matches, between evenly matched opponents. He ONLY serves the promotional and marketing needs of the promotion, and does not consider or care about the implications of that on the fighters themselves. Bellator regularly sets up fights between talented fighters and inferior opponents (I hesitate to call them cans, as I feel this term is disrespectful to the fighters themselves). Bellator does this to preserve their marketable fighter’s records and reputations – at the cost of the careers of lesser known, and lesser experienced fighters.
Bellator have been signing fighters for years, to feed to guys like Michael ‘Venom’ Page for example. Almost always it’s a guy coming off of a loss or two, in a regional promotion. MVP is 4.5 years into his Bellator career. 8 fights. 6 flashy finishes. And yet he still has not fought any of the top ranked welterweight fighters in Bellator.
- MVP was 7-0, with 6 first round finishes, and Bellator set him up with Rudy Bears who was 16-13 in his career, and 2-5 in Bellator at the time. Bears had lost to 9 of the 10 recognizable fighters he’d fought in his career. MVP finished him in 1 round.
- MVP was 8-0, with 7 first round finishes, and Bellator set him up with Charlie Ontiveros who had a 6-3 record at the time. Ontiveros had never fought a recognizable fighter in his career, which up until that point in time had been entirely on the regional circuit. MVP finished him in 1 round.
- MVP was 9-0, with 8 first round finishes, and Bellator set him up with Jeremie Holloway who had a 7-1 record. Holloway’s only loss was his only fight in Bellator, with all of his wins coming on the regional circuit against unknown fighters. MVP finished him in round 1 with a toe-hold.
- MVP was 10-0, with 9 first round finishes, and Bellator set him up with Evangelista Santos. Santos was an aging veteran, with a ton of road miles on him and a 21-17 record. Santos had one win in his entire career, against an elite level fighter, having lost 9 of the other fights he had against top caliber talent. MVP finished him with a flying knee that caved in Santos’ skull and forced him into retirement.
MVP has yet to be set up against the elite fighters in the division in Bellator, despite being ranked in the top 5 by Bellator. Lima, Koreshkov, Daley, Larkin, MacDonald, and a host of other guys have all been booked over and over again against other fighters, and MVP has been matched up time and time again against lesser known guys. The fact that MVP is ranked in the top 5, without ever fighting any other top ranked talent is ridiculous.
And this general formula has played out over, and over and over again in Bellator, with many of their “home-grown” stars.
- Bellator star Bobby Lashley is 5-0 i the promotion with his biggest challenge to date being 20-14 James Thompson. Every other opponent has been a lesser known, non-recognizable fighter from the regional circuit.
- Justin Wren, is 3-0 in Bellator, having only fought regional level guys.
- Aaron Pico was a guy touted as one of the hottest prospects in MMA. Bellator signed him to fight a guy riding a two fight losing streak on the regional circuit. And guess what? Pico knocks him out cold, and looks like a killer in the process. For comparison, in the UFC, CM Punk got matched up with a guy on a two fight win streak, who had potential. Not someone riding a few losses.
Bellator also has a long history of signing older, declining veterans, purely for promotional value, and then feeding them to the lions.
- Bellator signed 51 year old, road-worn Ken Shamrock to a contract. Shamrock was 3-9 in his previous 12 fights, with 8 of those 9 losses being KOs. Shamrock went on to get KOd twice in a row in Bellator.
- Bellator signed 49 year old Royce Gracie, a man who’s previous fight was almost 9 years earlier.
- Bellator recently signed Fedor Emelianenko, who promptly got KOd in the first round, in his first fight in the promotion.
The promotion exists on a steady mix of legitimate fights, circus fights, and “legends league” fights. For every legitimate fight between two top contenders, there’s a fight between two aging veterans, and/or a circus fight. Dada 5000 vs Kimbo Slice was not legitimate top level MMA. Ken Shamrock fights are not deserving of the spotlight. And let’s not forget that they are doing this on purpose, while paying hard working up and coming fighters peanuts (see point #1).
Bellator chews up and spits out fighters (in particular lower level fighters) with ZERO regard to their health or wealth. Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 both almost died after their fight. MVP destroys some inferior guy every fight, and then that guy is promptly cut and sent back to the regional circuit. There is no out-of-competition health insurance plan in Bellator. If you get hurt training, or get in a car accident, then you are out of luck, because Bellator offers you no promises. Sort it out yourself. The promotion is not going to take care of you.
- All of the above doesn’t mean some fighters aren’t paid well in Bellator. Some absolutely are.
- It doesn’t mean some fighters aren’t matched up in competitive fights. Some absolutely are.
- It doesn’t mean some fighters aren’t taken care of. Some absolutely are.
- It doesn’t mean that Bellator doesn’t put on good fights. They absolutely do.
But they can do a lot better.
There are many aspects of the promotion that are troubling. And exposing them to the light is what we should all want, for the betterment of the sport and the promotion and for the benefit and health of the fighters themselves.