Opening Round: Non-Title Nuttiness

Bellator FC does a lot of things right. The tournament-structure makes the brand unique, the weekly format is nice, the talent-level is consistently strong, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to feature segments involving the ring-girls demonstrating grappling techniques (a pair I’d argue is better looking than the UFC’s current selection any day).

However, one glaring blemish on an otherwise porcelain face is the company’s decision to constantly feature their champions in non-title bouts. It’s not hard to find an example for reference. Just look back to last week’s event where Zach Makovsky, Bellator’s bantamweight king, fought Ryan Roberts or ahead a few days to Bellator 55 where 205-pound tournament winner Christian M’Pumbu has inexplicably been thrown to the wolves…or Wiuffs to be more specific.

M’Pumbu, an 18-3-1 undersized light heavyweight whose biggest win came over Stefan Struve in 2007, has been paired against 64-14 Travis Wiuff, a former heavyweight with wins in nine of his last ten fights and past success against Kazuyuki Fujita, Ricco Rodriguez, and Jeff Monson among numerous notable victories. Also, if you’re thinking there must be some sort of massive age differential based on experience, Wiuff is actually younger than M’Pumbu.

What benefit is there at all to this bout taking place if hoping to build your promotion’s belt into a legitimate prize to be had or the individual who wears it into more than a paper champ? A loss discredits both the gold and the waist it is around, while a win has less impact than it would if the stakes had been higher. In Makovsky’s case he beat a guy most people had never heard of to begin with and won’t hear about again. Now imagine if he’d somehow gotten beaten…

Joe Warren, who wears the featherweight strap, was just knocked out cold in a lighter division. Do you think fans are more interested in getting behind him as the representative for the 145 pound class based on his last two non-title showings (the other being a terribly scored decision win over Marcos Galvao)?

I understand Bellator needs to keep their poster-children active but not to the extent it damages the public’s perception of the business. If stuck in a situation like light heavyweight where there is no tournament in place to create a contender, Bellator should bite the bullet and put the title up for grabs as any other MMA organization would. Roll the dice and hope they come up “Tonton”. Establish your champ and make fans understand your belt means something with consistency instead of awarding it, then letting it collect dust.

Bellator’s motto is, “Where title-shots are earned, not given,” and it rings true. However, they aren’t earned frequently enough and something is definitely being given – a reason for casual fans to lose interest in the very people who should be front and center on their collective radar.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR

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