Bellator MMA is headed to broadcast television.
The global mixed martial arts organization is teaming with CBS for a live broadcast of its upcoming title fight between heavyweight world champion Ryan Bader and MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko in a rematch of their 2019 bout. The event will air on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. PT on CBS and stream live on Paramount+ for premium subscribers. (Bellator, CBS and Paramount+ are all owned by Paramount Global.)
Bellator 290 will also feature a second title match between light heavyweight Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero going up against the winner of Friday’s Bellator 288 main event between world champion Vadim Nemkov and Corey Anderson. The matches will be filmed live from the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. Additional bouts for both the main and preliminary fight cards will be announced.
“We have been working tirelessly on growing this brand into the global powerhouse it is today and a primetime slot on CBS has always been one of our key objectives,” said Bellator president Scott Coker. “With a healthy roster full of many of the world’s very best fighters, along with elite up-and-coming prospects and legends of the game, I’m very excited to showcase this event on the most-watched network in America.”
The last live broadcast of any MMA match on CBS came in 2010 with Strikeforce, a global promotion founded by Coker. CBS aired five MMA events between 2008-2010 as departing entertainment president Kelly Kahl was a fan and helped bring the coverage to primetime audiences.
The news comes as sports rights remain in high demand among traditional broadcasters, cable networks and, more recently, streaming platforms. Live programming, like sports and awards shows, is considered programming that viewers must watch live. In an era of fragmented viewing, live programming has only increased value over the years. Case in point: Netflix recently entered the space with news that it would live stream Chris Rock’s upcoming stand-up special.