Bellator and Viacom have signed a multiple-year broadcast deal with streaming service DAZN - owned by the Perform Group - believed to be worth upwards of 100 million US dollars
Seven Bellator events a year will be exclusive to DAZN in the USA, which also streams live sports in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada and Japan.
"Game-changer" for Bellator and sport of MMA says Scott Coker, the Bellator MMA CEO.
All other Bellator events will also be streamed on DAZN, as well as the Paramount Network, owned by Viacom
The first event on DAZN will be a super-fight between middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and welterweight champion Rory MacDonald in San Jose on Sept 29.
US star Rampage Jackson will face Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva, fight No 4 in their rivalry, and will be the co-main contest at the San Jose event. They fought in PRIDE in 2003 and 2004, and in the UFC in 2008. It is 2-1 to the Brazilian.
Bellator also announces eight-man welterweight tournament which will also be broadcast on DAZN, set to start at the Sept 29 event
Long list of welterweights being discussed could include two British fighters but the eight not yet finalised. Possible participants: Current champion Rory MacDonald, former belt holder Douglas Lima, Paul Daley, Michael Page, Andrey Koreshkov, Lorenz Larkin, Jon Fitch, Ed Ruth.
Lyoto Machida, newly signed to the organisation, is expected to make his Bellator debut in November
Machida will compete at both middleweight and light-heavyweight
Mixed martial arts organisation Bellator and its owners Viacom will announce a ground-breaking landmark distribution deal at a news conference at its New York headquarters, which includes a multiple-year broadcast deal with the digital streaming service DAZN - owned by the Perform Group - believed to be worth upwards of 100 million US dollars.
The new deal will include at least seven Bellator events a year being exclusive to DAZN in the USA, which will also stream the events live - as it does with other sports such as football (Bundesliga, La Liga, Champions League, J.League), the NBA, the NFL and Formula One - in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada and Japan. DAZN launched in August 2016.
The first event on DAZN will be a super-fight between middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and welterweight champion Rory MacDonald in San Jose on Sept 29, bringing together two renowned mixed martial arts stars who have global appeal in the rapidly-growing sport.
Aside from an eight-man welterweight tournament to be added to the DAZN deal, American fight and film star Rampage Jackson and Brazilian MMA legend Wanderlei Silva are also expected to face off in fight No 4 of their rivalry as the co-main contest at the San Jose event. They fought in PRIDE in 2003 and 2004, and in the UFC in 2008. It is 2-1 in victories to the Brazilian.
The Telegraph understands that the deal may also allow DAZN to show all other Bellator MMA events, which are likely to be simulcast in the USA on the Paramount Network, also part of Viacom's broadcast portfolio, as they are currently.
With its visceral nature, and compelling storylines - not to mention its cutting edge appeal with the younger generations - fight sports have become sought-after broadcast fare in the digital age.
Bellator president Coker and Viacom Chief Financial Officer Wade Davis have overseen the announcement, with Coker tight-lipped this week, only revealing to The Telegraph ahead of the news conference that the deal is "a game changer" for the sport of MMA, and for Bellator.
As the streaming 'arms race' heats up, the deal gives Bellator the strong-arm ability to continue to sign major names to its roster, and compete with the UFC, which has recently signed a deal with ESPN+, the American sports broadcaster's new streaming service.
This new venture will underwrite Bellator's ambition under its president Scott Coker to reach new markets, sign more fighters who are free agents to its burgeoning roster, and increase its global appeal.
After adding a Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament in the last year, Bellator has also been increasing its reach with more events in Europe in the last two years.
The announcement is a clear sign that Bellator MMA is on the rise as a rival to the UFC, having grown exponentially in the USA after its acquisition by media conglomerate Viacom five years ago.
Bellator are also to make official today an eight-man Welterweight Grand Prix Tournament which will be broadcast on DAZN, and could have its first round on the Sept 29 event.
It follows the fight league's eight-man heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament which started this year, which has reached the semi-final stage with Chael Sonnen facing Fedor Emilianenko and Ryan Bader set to meet Matt Mitrione.
A wishlist of welterweights from the Bellator roster are currently under discussion for the Grand Prix and they could include two British fighters, but sources have confirmed to the Telegraph that the eight fighters have not yet been finalised, in spite of reports in the US media that the contestants have been signed to the format.
Those likely to be selected from 170lb roster are current belt holder Rory MacDonald, former champion Douglas Lima, Paul Daley, Michael Page, Andrey Koreshkov, Lorenz Larkin, Jon Fitch, and Ed Ruth. The details of the tournament are yet to be completed, with the possibility that the belt could change hands throughout the tournament, though that may not be workable.
Lyoto Machida, another Brazilian legend in MMA newly-signed to the organisation, is expected to make his Bellator debut in November. Machida will compete at both middleweight and light-heavyweight.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion announced last week that he had signed a multi-fight contract with Bellator, and although he had been given an equal counter-offer from the UFC, has decided to "start a new chapter, with a new fight family".
Overall, the Viacom-Bellator-DAZN deal marks another step forward as the landscape of sports broadcasting morphs into a new, more mobile, accessible era for fans and viewers.
DAZN will also move into boxing later this year in the USA. The Perform Group has signed a boxing deal with British promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes boxing's biggest commodity in heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
The partnership involves exclusive events in the USA, starting in the autumn, while the Perform Group have recently added the second year of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), another tournament format, to its portfolio.
The WBSS will include the bantamweight and junior welterweight divisions in its second season after a compelling first year in which the supermiddleweight and cruiserweight tournaments, due to culminate in the next three months, gripped boxing fans.
What is clear is that the company owned by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Sir Len Blavatnik, 61, the wealthiest person in the UK with a net worth of US $21.2 billion, is widening its reach on the developing sports streaming market.
The final piece in the broadcast jigsaw for mixed martial arts fans in the UK will be completing a deal for Bellator events to be shown live. The UFC is currently shown on BT Sport, a subscription channel. Viacom owns Channel 5 in the UK, as well as SPIKE-UK, which would be the perfect platform to reach a wider audience and develop a following there.
Coker intimated after the historic Bellator 200 event in London in May that there are plans to develop a series of fight nights in the UK - "between 6 to eight events" - and has inferred to The Telegraph that a deal will be struck this autumn which will change MMA's visibility in the UK.