Rewind back to the end of 2012 and it appeared that the UFC was the only game in town when it came to top-level MMA. They’d swallowed up rival promotions like PRIDE, Affliction, and Elite XC, and sister promotions WEC and StrikeForce were both folded and merged into an ever-growing roster of top-level fighters.
In a sport like MMA though, it was always going to be just a matter of time before another rival promotion sprung up. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a new venture, but rather the growth of an existing, smaller promotion.
Founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney, Bellator MMA had been floating along rather harmlessly from a UFC perspective, despite being bought out by media giants Viacom in 2011. But in 2013 the promotion began to air on the former home of the UFC – Spike TV – and when former StrikeForce promoter Scott Coker took over the helm in 2014, suddenly Bellator was on the UFC’s radar big time.
Since then, thanks to the signings of former UFC fighters like Rory MacDonald, Gegard Mousasi and Benson Henderson, Bellator has developed into the UFC’s biggest rival promotion bar none. There are some fans who would go as far as to suggest that Bellator is, in fact, better than the UFC.
Bellator has grown, of that there can be no doubt. But even so – those fans would be wrong. Here are 5 reasons why the UFC remains a far superior promotion to Bellator.
#1 The UFC has far more roster depth
The biggest difference between the UFC and Bellator has to be the UFC’s superior roster depth. Sure, the WME-IMG-owned promotion might’ve lost some big name free agents to their rivals over the past few years, but realistically, have the likes of Rory MacDonald, Gegard Mousasi or Ryan Bader really been missed? By hardcore fans maybe, but otherwise, they’re just a handful of names that no longer compete in the Octagon.
The UFC’s Lightweight, Welterweight and Bantamweight divisions are currently as stacked as they’ve ever been, and while Light-Heavyweight is a bit of a wasteland at the minute, it’s not like Bellator’s roster at 205lbs is any better. Essentially, the UFC has Bellator trumped in literally every division.
While that’s to be expected due to the UFC’s size in comparison to Bellator, there’s also something to be said for Scott Coker’s promotional tactics when it comes to signing free agents.
It often feels like he’ll make a move for any available semi-big name, and while that’s bolstered the roster somewhat, many fans – myself included – feel he’d be better off focusing on one or maybe two divisions at best in terms of new signings.
That would potentially allow him to build a division to rival the UFC’s in the same weight class, but for now, the UFC’s roster depth remains hugely superior to Bellator’s – and allows them to present a superior product.