In what would have to be considered a surprising turn of events, a taped Bellator show on Friday night drew the company’s best television numbers in more than four months.
The Friday night broadcast of a Bellator show from Tel Aviv, Israel, which took place the previous day, did 318,000 viewers. It slightly beat the live broadcast the week before of 314,000 of a show that included the retirement fight of King Mo Lawal. It was the best Bellator number since a featherweight title defense by Julia Budd, beating Olga Rubin, on July 12 did 325,000 viewers.
Besides the full day delay, the surprise would also be that the show didn’t seem to have anything that would lead to the biggest audience in months. .
The main event pitted Sergei Kharitonov (30-8, 2 no contests), whose heyday was with the Pride Fighting Championships, losing via second-round stoppage to Linton Vassell (19-8, 1 no contest). Kharitonov was coming off a knockout win over Matt Mitrione, while Vassell had once gotten a shot at the light heavyweight title, but was coming off three losses in a row, including in his first fight back at heavyweight.
But that was the only name fight on the show.
And the only other name recognizable to an average fight fan on the show was Roger Huerta (24-12-1, 1 no-contest), who lost a decision to Sidney Outlaw (14-3) in the semifinal. Huerta was best known for a UFC run in 2006 and 2007 where he won five in a row, and once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. But he has gone 4-11 over the last dozen years fighting in smaller organizations.
The biggest competition to Bellator was WWE Smackdown, and two NBA games on ESPN. Smackdown did 2,309,000 viewers, its lowest number since moving to FOX. The early game NBA game, Utah vs. Memphis, did 1,085,000. The late game, Golden State vs. Boston, did 1,416,000 viewers, the latter of which is a solid Friday night number. ESPN 2 ran a Fresno State vs. San Diego State football game that did 530,000 viewers.