Just twenty minutes away from their new headquarters in Newport Beach, California, Bellator will be "Coming Home" to SPIKE TV on January 17th with two title fights. MMA superstar Renato "Babalu" Sobral will also be making his Bellator debut on the promotions 85th fight card, he's one of eight competitors listed as part of the Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bellator's first year with SPIKE TV will be a great one. I wouldn't be doing my job though if I didn't list six scenarios (because five isn't enough and ten would likely lose your interest) that could help make 2013 an unforgettable year for Bellator.
The Eddie Alvarez Situation
Bellator has two weeks to match the offer sheet given to Eddie Alvarez by the UFC. Do it. They didn't play ball when it came to Hector Lombard, and that's fine. The relationship between Eddie and Bjorn Rebney, and the value Eddie that has to the promotion historically (going all the way back to Bellator's debut event in 2009) is much larger than anything "Shango" could've done for the promotion moving forward. You sign Eddie Alvarez, and you make the Chandler vs. Alvarez rematch for Bellator 100. Although Rebney has noted that the new rematch clause may not be retroactive, he also hasn't completely ruled it out. This is a big bargaining chip for Eddie should Bellator decide to match the UFC offer. Alvarez vs. Chandler I is the reason why you made the rematch clause after all, right?
A Tournament Final For The Ages
I've yet to feast my eyes upon the Season 8 Light Heavyweight bracket. I'm not even sure it's been released yet. I can only assume that the great minds at Bellator will put King Mo and Babalu on opposite sides of the brackets and give them the easiest roads possible to the finals. A King Mo vs. Bablu LHW final for a shot at 100K and the Bellator title spells ratings gold for SPIKE. And this isn't the Strikeforce Grand Prix, so it's something we as fans could actually look forward to as soon as the summer of '13.
Their Violent Past
We are now 84 events deep, and there's been more than enough special moments that have taken place inside of the Bellator cage. It's time for a 'Best of Bellator show', and there is only one option for a host. Step aside Sean Wheelock, her name is Jade Bryce.
The reality show. It's happening. We can't stop it. The advantage Bellator has here is that they can learn from the UFC's mistakes. Forget the house. And don't do two seasons a year. Bellator already does a great job with their pre-fight packages. Do the same thing with the reality team. Follow around these fighters for a week in their hometowns and document the trips they make to wherever these fights end up taking place which would like be California. If you want to have a team of coaches each season and film in the gym, or around town - that's fine. A fighter house is completely unnecessary at this point though. It worked for the first five seasons of TUF. Twelve seasons later, it's become laughable and unwatchable.
Keep Doing What You're Already Doing So Well
Continue with the emphasis on social media, and the other tools at your disposal. It works for the UFC, and even more so for WWE. The Bellator: Vote for the Fight contest was a great idea. Don't stop there. Also, putting fighters like Lloyd Woodard and King Mo on Ink Master - genius move. While a show like MMA Uncensored does give us UFC news, it's also another tool that over time could trick new fans into thinking Bellator is actually more important than the UFC, depending on how you use it. Always lead off the show with Bellator stories, and guests. Mix in the UFC stuff like Sportscenter does with the NHL. Again, none of this will happen over night. Its just an idea, something to keep an eye on.
Time To Crown a New Female Champion
Zoila Gurgel never defended the women's 115 lb title she won back in 2010. Heck, her name wasn't even Zoila Gurgel back then. As far as I'm concerned, that title no longer exists. The "Warrior Princess" has competed twice at Flyweight since beating the legendary Megumi Fujii for the title back at Bellator 34. In her latest bout she was beaten by Ohio's Jessica Eye in extraordinary fashion. It's become obvious that Bellator doesn't plan to have Zoila Frausto Gurgel defend that belt if they haven't already. It's time to relinquish her of it. As well all know, the UFC will be making its first foray into the world of WMMA with Ronda Rousey and the 135 lb division. Bellator can capitalize with the talent available to them at 125. Like I mentioned before with King Mo and Babalu, they should put Gurgel and Eye on opposite sides of the bracket. A rematch between these two with a title and a paycheck waiting for them instead of just bragging rights makes for another memorable scenario for Bellator and SPIKE TV.