There is no one who knows more about MMA ratings that Dave Meltzer, and he broke it down for Bellator 149, and added a major warning. The event did three times the viewership of a normal Bellator event. But it ended with a fighter who had no business being in a main event in the hospital with renal failure.
What to do?
Friday night’s Bellator show featuring Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice, drew an average of 1,964,000 viewers over the three hours to beat the company’s all-time record by 24 percent.
The prior record was set on June 19, by the Shamrock vs. Slice match, which averaged 1,580,000 viewers, peaking with 2.3 million viewers live for the main event.
The show beat out everything on cable on Friday with the exception of Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel and some programming on Fox News.
In the male 18-34, 18-49 and 35-49 demos, Spike for the night beat not only everything on cable, but all the broadcast networks.
Friday’s show was the third-most watched MMA program on cable television in nearly five years.
Spike officials note that they expect to top that 2011 number with the inclusion of DVR viewership, a number which should be available Wednesday.
The Meltzer looked at the other side of the event. Notably Dhafir Harris reported heart attack and renal failure.
Dhafir Harris — or Dada 5000, as he’s better known — remains hospitalized after growing gravely ill on Friday night after his bout with Kimbo Slice, with reports of heart and renal failure, the latter of which the promotion confirmed. While certainly memorable, the bout was ultimately a sad display of MMA, with both competitors barely able to avoid collapsing during the fight, each sapped of energy just minutes after the opening bell. Because neither man had any strength or power left to hurt the other, the bout did something nobody expected by extending into the third round, with Harris eventually going down more from exhaustion than from punches.
Gracie vs. Shamrock, the rematch 21 years in the making, ended early after the 52-year-old Shamrock took a low blow and couldn’t recover.
From a sports standpoint, these matches are sad to watch. But the public spoke through the numbers, and in a difficult and competitive television landscape, their voices will be heard.
So, given that Bellator is more than likely to book some of these men into fights again, the lesson from Friday is that these fights need to be modified for safety concerns.
It’s imperative athletic commissions thoroughly examine all fighters over the age of 40, or inexperienced fighters nearing that age. And they certainly shouldn’t be allowed in the cage if they have made a rapid weight cut. Not just normal medical testing, but stricter hydration testing should be a must.
If ratings tell you that these kinds of fights are what the public wants to see, ramifications — such as shortening matches — is at least an improvement when it comes to the odds of avoiding a future tragedy.
People should not be blinded by the ratings Bellator 149 drew and ignore the fact that we came very close to a catastrophe, a catastrophe that could have greatly impacted the sport in the most negative way possible.