Phase one of MMA fight league Bellator’s ambitious move into Europe was announced Wednesday in London outlined in a partnership with UK broadcaster Channel 5, which will see the creation of a European fight series televised live on free-to-air terrestrial TV in 2019.
The promotion’s CEO Scott Coker revealed “there will up to six events in the calendar year”, with the long-standing fight promoter expected to unveil even further developments this week.
The first event in the ground-breaking deal with Channel 5 will be televised live on Saturday night (February 9) from the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.
Former U.K. lightweight champion Ryan Scope makes his Bellator debut in the main event against Brazilian title contender Patricky “Pitbull,” while former Geordie Shore reality TV star-turned-mixed martial artist Aaron Chalmers looks to remain undefeated against Corey Browning in a lightweight co-main event.
Rising UK stars Fabian Edwards and Terry Brazier also feature while Irishman James Gallagher also attended the London news conference as he headlines in Dublin on Feb 23.
The addition of live MMA action builds on Channel 5’s sports portfolio, which now includes boxing, England cricket, World Rally Championship and Premiership Rugby.
Channel 5 have shown world heavyweight boxing cousins Tyson Fury and Hughie Fury during their careers, with former world No 1 ‘Gypsy King’ drawing 3 million viewers. World title challenger Hughie has drawn audiences of over one million, proving that there remains an appetite for live fights on terrestrial television in the UK.
Paul Dunthorne, COO of Channel 5/Viacom International explained the reasoning behind the move. “Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and Bellator are leading the way in the UK with their European Fight Series in 2019,” he said.
“We are partnering with an exciting brand and it is great news for our viewers who will be able to watch some of the biggest names in the sport compete live on free to air TV. Bellator brings the very best fight cards to Europe and we are excited to be able to bring our viewers closer to all of the drama and excitement that we know it will deliver.’
David Green, Head of Bellator Europe, added: “We are delighted to bring UK fight fans the very best MMA action live on free-to-air terrestrial TV, where it will be seen by the biggest TV audience, bringing viewers closer to the action than ever before.
“Bellator athletes are among the most talented and exciting in the world and we look forward to seeing the partnership with Channel 5 develop over the next 12 months.”
Extra vim was added to Wednesday’s proceedings when welterweights Paul Daley and Michael ‘Venom’ Page went head-to-head at a second news conference, the British fighters both claiming that their headline event in Connecticut, USA, on Feb 16 will end in a knockout.
The two men have had a simmering feud for several years, predicated on accusations of disrespect. Vastly experienced Daley is a renowned knockout artist, while Page remains undefeated after 13 fights. Their contest is the second quarter-final of the Bellator Welterweight Tournament Grand Prix, with the winner to be matched against Douglas Lima, the former champion.
The first televised instalment of Bellator’s exclusive European fight series will air live on Channel 5 at 10 p.m. GMT, on Saturday, February 9, with Bellator Newcastle: Pitbull vs. Scope.