While the Ultimate Fighting Championship may be the most famous mixed martial arts company in the world, other organizations around the world feature MMA.
A competitor to the UFC’s throne as the king of MMA is Bellator MMA.
While UFC may boast famous fighters past and present like Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, CM Punk, and Brock Lesnar, Bellator has its own who’s who of the sport and favorites.
The talent that Bellator has had both past and present includes Chael Sonnen, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Bobby Lashley, Jack Swagger, King Mo, Tito Ortiz, and Fedor Emelianenko.
Both organizations provide ample sports betting opportunities with their rosters of high profile fighters. However, there are some key differences in how these leagues operate.
The UFC is more focused on pay-per-view events, whereas Bellator is more television-focused. Investors in the gambling industry back the UFC while Bellator is owned by Viacom, making them entertainment-based. UFC focuses on individual matches whereas Bellator is more tournament-based (although this is changing).
History of Bellator
Bellator started in 2008 and was based on a tournament format. The origins were based on toughman events that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
The toughman contests, on the other hand, usually had no defined fighting style (except maybe brawling).
Bellator had the tagline “The Toughest Tournament in Sports” and featured 4- and 8-man tournaments in which the winner was awarded $100,000 and a one-on-one guaranteed world-title match against the world champion in the fighter’s corresponding weight class.
Changes started happening in 2011. The media conglomerate Viacom, which owns CBS, Paramount, and a host of cable channels, bought into Bellator in 2011. Viacom started broadcasting Bellator matches on their Spike TV Channel (now known as the Paramount Network).
In 2014, Strikeforce MMA founder Scott Coker was hired by Viacom to lead Bellator.
Coker started tweaking the Bellator business model. He immediately started de-emphasizing tournament-style matches in favor of straight ahead one-on-one matchups. This was necessary to allow for a better presentation on television as tournaments were usually held over a three-month period.
He also changed the cage that the fighters competed in. The original cage was an octagon similar to the one used in UFC matches. Coker wanted to differentiate it from UFC, so he “softened” the corners on the cage. While it is still technically an octagon, it appears more like a circle.
In May 2014, Bellator held its first pay-per-view. It featured the following matches:
- Rampage Jackson vs. King Mo in a light heavyweight tournament final
- Michael Chandler vs. Will Brooks for the Lightweight Interim World Championship
- Alexander Shlemenko vs. Tito Ortiz
- Alexander Volkov vs. Blagoi Ivanov in the Bellator Season 10 Heavyweight Tournament Final
- Ricky Rainey vs. Michael Page
Bellator was known for their tournaments and modified the rules during them. In tournament matches, elbow strikes were illegal in the quarterfinal and semifinal tournament bouts due to the high probability of a cut occurring. Elbow strikes were legal in the finals. All matches consisted of three 5-minute rounds.
Bellator no longer runs any scheduled tournaments but has been known to partner with smaller MMA organizations to run them, such as Rizin Fighting Federation from Japan.
Bellator has grown internationally since Viacom’s purchase. In 2013, Bellator reached a multi-year agreement with Fox Sports Latin America to broadcast its shows. This gave Bellator the largest Latin American footprint of any MMA group.
MMA is governed in most states by state athletic commissions. As such, Bellator has adopted the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
The URMMA bans the following types of actions:
- Butting with the head
- Eye gouging of any kind
- Hair pulling
- Fish hooking
- Groin attacks of any kind
- Putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent
- Small joint manipulation
- Striking to the spine or the back of the head
- Striking downward using the point of the elbow
- Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea
- Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh
- Grabbing the clavicle
- Kicking the head of a grounded opponent
- Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent
- Stomping a grounded opponent
- Kicking to the kidney with the heel
- Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck
- Throwing an opponent out of the ring or fenced area
- Holding the shorts or gloves of an opponent
- Spitting at an opponent
- Engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent
- Holding the ropes or the fence
- Attacking an opponent on or during the break
- Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee
- Attacking an opponent after the bell (horn) has sounded the end of a round
- Flagrantly disregarding the instructions of the referee
- Timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury
- Interference by the corner
If a fighter is observed violating any of these rules, the referee can either warn the fighter, take a point away, or disqualify the fighter depending upon the regularity and severity of the foul.
Bellator currently has seven weight classes for men and four for women. The weight classes are:
|Men’s Bantamweight||135 lb||Women’s
|Men’s Featherweight||145 lb||Women’s
|125 lb||Men’s Lightweight||155 lb||Women’s
|Men’s Welterweight||170 lb||Women’s
|145 lb||Men’s Middleweight||185 lb|
|Men’s Light Heavyweight||205 lb|
|Men’s Heavyweight||265 lb|
Of the women’s division, only two of the weight classes have world champions — the featherweight and the flyweight divisions.
Betting on Bellator
Much like UFC, Bellator is a worldwide brand, and as such, sportsbooks around the world take action on the events. Because Bellator is running three to five events each month, it provides bettors with more opportunities to bet on the sport than the UFC offers.
Also, Bellator needs to have more fighters on their roster to make sure all fighters get enough downtime between fights while maintaining their aggressive schedule.
The most common way to display betting odds is in the moneyline style. This applies to all types of bets.
The most common moneyline bet is to bet on a winner.
A bet on a winner might look like this:
- Jack Swagger -300
- King Mo +250
In this example, you’ll notice that a positive and a negative number is assigned to each fighter. These numbers represent the fighters’ odds of winning in the eyes of the sportsbook.
In this example, Jack Swagger is favored to win this fight.
Due to him being the favorite, the oddsmakers need to balance the desire of people to bet on Swagger against the need of the sportsbook to make a profit. So placing a $300 bet on Swagger will result in you winning an additional $100.
King Mo, on the other hand, is the underdog in this match. Because oddsmakers believe he’ll lose the match, you don’t have to risk as much. In his case, you only have to bet $100 to win $250.
So, if you’re betting on a person with a negative number, you need to bet that amount to win $100. If you’re betting on a positive number, you need to bet $100 to win the positive amount in dollars.
It’s not always the case, though. A dominant fighter could come along and skew the odds. This can happen when an undefeated fighter gets a title shot or when a champion from another weight division fights in a heavier or lighter division.
Many of these matches are signed several months in advance. This creates an advantage for anyone wanting to bet on a match. Usually, odds are better several months before a fight and fluctuate as the match gets closer. The reasons for this can be numerous but include issues like an injury during training, poor training, turmoil in the fighters’ personal lives, and many more. So it’s best to lock in better odds as soon as you can.
Over/Under Round Bets
An over/under round bet is a bet on the round that the match will end in. All standard matches in Bellator are three rounds. A championship match is five rounds.
After betting on a winner, this is the most popular bet.
An over/under round bet works like this.
You’re betting on a standard match with no title on the line. The over/under on the match is 1.5. This means that if you take the under, the match must end by 2:29 seconds of the second round. If it goes further, you lose.
If you bet over, then the match must go beyond the 2:30 mark in the second round to win.
In this bet, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. All that matters is the time that the bout ends.
I’ve found that matches that involve heavier fighters tend to end quickly, and matches that involve lighter fighters make it closer to the distance. Heavier fighters tend to have harder blows, whereas the lighter fighters tend to have a more rapid-fire approach but less behind them.
Match End Bet
Another type of bet you can make is a bet on how the match will end.
In Bellator, there are a few methods of victory that can occur.
- A submission is when a fighter taps the mat or on his/her opponent, or verbally submits
- A technical submission is when a fighter either loses consciousness or is on the verge of serious injury while in a hold. Either is determined by the referee
- A knockout (KO) occurs when a fighter is hit by a strike or kick and is knocked unconscious
- A technical knockout (TKO) is when the decision is made that the fighter can’t continue. This can happen one of three ways:
- The referee ends the match because the fighter is unable to defend him/herself
- The ringside doctor ends the fight due to excessive bleeding or injury
- The cornerman of the fighter forfeits the match for their fighter
- A judges’ decision is where the fight has gone the distance, and all three or five scheduled rounds have finished without a knockout, TKO, or stoppage. In this scenario, the ringside judges who have been keeping score throughout the match determine the winner based on points. The decision could result in a definite winner or a draw
- A disqualification is where one fighter is deemed the loser for breaking rules in a match
- A no contest is a situation where circumstances beyond the fighters’ control cause the referee to end the match
When placing a bet, you can choose any of these outcomes. Some sportsbooks may not have all of these options available. But most are offered. And if you don’t see the outcome you expect, you can contact the sportsbook and see if they’ll offer you odds on that outcome.
A parlay bet is a bet on the outcome of several matches in one night.
I’ve been a long-time parlay bettor. I started placing parlay bets on pro and college football while I was in high school in the 1980s.
I didn’t even know what it was called. We just called it football cards.
We had the option of choosing between 3 and 15 games, and we could win up to $600.
I remember studying the games to see who was going to have the best chance of winning. I’d always choose all 15 teams. I think in the two years I played, I won once, which isn’t bad seeing I only spent $2 a week.
You’ll pay a flat amount, usually $5, for all of your choices.
So, to give you an example, you may see a card with ten matches in a night. You can pick winners for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or all 10 matches.
The payouts vary based on how many matches you choose the winner for.
The payouts could look similar to this:
- 3 matches – $10
- 4 matches – $20
- 5 matches – $50
- 6 matches – $100
- 7 matches – $250
- 8 matches – $500
- 9 matches – $1,000
- 10 matches – $2,000
In order for you to win, you must pick every winner in every match you choose. If nine of your picks win and one loses, you lose.
In most cases, if one of your fighters draws, you lose, although this varies from sportsbook to sportsbook as some have set a policy of draws and others offer a special “ties win” parlay.
When betting on Bellator matches, sportsbooks may offer a number of prop bets or proposition bets. These bets are wagers that aren’t affected by the outcome of the bout.
Some popular prop bets that have popped up in the past include:
- Will the fight go the distance?
- Finishing round
- Will someone land a takedown?
- Who will land more significant strikes?
- Who will bleed first in the fight?
- Will the fighters have to be separated?
- Total takedowns in the fight (over/under)
- Total strikes landed by both fighters combined
- Who will have a larger entourage when approaching the cage?
- Will either fighter be stretchered out?
- Will this fight result in a rematch?
- Will Donald Trump tweet about a fight on the card?
- Will any fighter not make weight?
- Which match will be named best match of the night?
- Which fighter will be named best fighter of the night?
- Will any match be stopped by a doctor?
- Will any match end in a TKO?
- Will any fighter on the card test positive for banned substances prior to the fight?
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to place prop bets on a Bellator match, and these aren’t all of them.
MMA has come a long way since UFC first started running cards in the early ‘90s. Bellator has taken what UFC started and has built on it. They have the attitude that they don’t need to be the number one MMA promotion in the world, but they’re looking to be the best.
This attitude is present in the way they do business. A number of fighters who’ve competed in both UFC and Bellator have said that Bellator has the better atmosphere and treats their fighters better.
This is even apparent in public. A number of professional wrestlers who wanted to try their hand at MMA have been allowed to do both through Bellator. Usually, these wrestlers are active on the independent scene and wrestle for organizations like Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, the National Wrestling Alliance, or other smaller promotions.
Among wrestlers that were able to work in both pro wrestling and Bellator include:
- King Mo
- Quentin “Rampage” Jackson
- Jack Swagger
- Matt Riddle
- Alberto El Patron
- Frank Mir
- Josh Barnett
It’s safe to say that despite UFC having the bigger market share, Bellator is carving out its own niche in the industry and will continue to do so and thrive.
The backing of Viacom allows for dozens of opportunities for the product to be seen on television and allows for movie tie-ins to put even more eyes on the product.
This was the case with the movie The A-Team. While it didn’t feature an MMA match of any kind, Quentin Jackson played the role of Sgt. B.A. Baracus (the role made popular by Mr. T in the television series). Jackson’s presence in the film allowed him to promote Bellator when promoting the movie as he was billed as “MMA fighter turned actor.”
And as Bellator gets bigger, more fights will be held. With more fights being held, more sportsbooks will offer action, allowing us all to place more bets and giving us all more opportunities to win.