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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Bellator is setting themselves up for what could be a record low in attendance and viewership for one of their events next week, as Bellator 28 heads to the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The issue at hand is Bellator running the event the same night as the opening day for the National Football League. What makes that issue worse is the fact that they're running this event in the same city as the opening game, as the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints host the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of their epic 2009 NFC Championship game.
While it seems like an ill-advised move on the surface, Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney feels the event will provide a viable alternative to the MMA fans in the city. In addition, Rebney says this was the one date that worked for the New Orleans venue in this third season.
"We have a great event with great fights scheduled and this was the one date on the schedule where our venue partners could bring us to New Orleans," Rebney said in a statement issued to MMATorch. "Also, not all MMA fans are NFL fans and in a football crazed city, our nationally televised World championship tournament event provides a tremendous world class alternative to the NFL."
With it being the one date open it's reasonable to bring the event here, although at the moment only two bouts have been announced for the card with Rich Clementi taking on Carey Vanier and Georgi Karakhanyan taking on WEC vet Anthony Leone, in as an injury replacement for Alvin Robinson.
Rebney's correct as well in his assertion that not all MMA fans are NFL fans, but there is a large crossover that could lead to a significant decrease in viewership of the live event. Of course, in many areas it's tape delayed until late at night anyway due to local baseball coverage of Fox Sports Net affiliates, so that may not end up being affected much either.
The live gate hasn't been a key factor in Bellator's business plan thus far through three seasons, and the venue they're running has a 2,100 seat capacity, so it's likely there are enough MMA fans in the city next Thursday that want to check out live MMA to get a sizable, for that venue, crowd. However, it's still a questionable move to try to pull this off in the midst of a 12 week season where they can't commit a ton of advertising and promotion to the event.
Overall, it's one week in a 12 week season, and if the numbers don't take a huge hit from what they're expecting on a week to week basis then it's not an issue to them. But it still seems an ill-timed event with such a massive NFL game running in the same city at the same time.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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