While explaining the timing of the collaboration and the events leading up to it, Stephen Espinoza elaborated on Showtime's history of broadcasting MMA and shed light on Bellator's evolution since Scott Coker took over as Bellator CEO in 2014, which culminated in Bellator's arrival on the premium television network.
"We've been interested in MMA for quite a while. We have a long history going back in the sport almost 15 years... We were the first ones to bring televised MMA to a national broadcast network. We've been talking to Scott (Coker) off and on since he took over Bellator as the president. When you look at the trajectory of Bellator... their ability to build new stars and contribute to the sport, the time just felt right to combine forces. Bellator has matured and elevated itself to the point where it now belongs on a premium television network," Steven Espinoza told the host Mauro Ranallo.
1. Showtime is now the exclusive home of Bellator live events
Bellator events will air live on the east coast as well as the west coast on Fridays, according to Stephen Espinoza. Bellator's return in 2021 will be marked by three events, Bellator 255, Bellator 256 and Bellator 257 on consecutive Fridays, starting April 2, 2021.
2. Bellator 255 will mark Bellator's historic debut on Showtime network
Bellator 255 will mark the historic debut of the promotion on the Showtime network. The event will air on April 2, 2021 and will be held at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. As confirmed by Scott Coker during the press conference, the event will be headlined by the featherweight Grand Prix semi-final between champion Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez. The winner of the fight will face AJ McKee in June 2021.
3. The Elite Eight
Scott Coker believes Bellator's light heavyweight division is unmatched in terms of depth of talent. Some of the biggest names in combat sports will be part of the Grand Prix, and will include former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, Yoel Romero, Anthony Johnson, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Corey Anderson, Vadim Nemkov and Dovletzhan Yagshimuradov; "The Elite Eight," as termed by Mauro Ranallo.
4. 2021 Bellator light heavyweight grand prix will begin on April 9
Bellator 256 will mark the beginning of the light heavyweight Grand Prix and will be headlined by a quarter-final bout between Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida. The fight is a rematch of their first fight in the UFC in 2012 which Machida won by second-round knockout. Another quarter-final between Corey Anderson and Dovletzhan Yagshimuradov will serve as the co-main event.
5. The wait for Anthony Johnson and Yoel Romero's debut will be finally over
Bellator 257 will bring to fans the much awaited debut of multiple-time UFC title challengers and Bellator's biggest acquisitions so far: Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson and Yoel Romero. The dangerous power punchers will slug it out in the quarter-finals of the light heavyweight Grand Prix in the co-main event of Bellator 257 on April 9, 2021.
The event will be headlined by a much-anticipated fight between current Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and Phil Davis.
6. The first string of events will be capped by a bantamweight title fight
The last of the four announced events will air on Friday, May 7, 2020. It will be headlined by the bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Juan Archuleta and former UFC fighter Sergio Pettis.