Bellator MMA is poised to make a major step in expanding its brand. The expansion for Bellator moves the company from its home here in North America across the Atlantic for a show in Europe. Bellator will make the move, but not to Sweden or Germany, where the UFC has so boldly gone, or into the United Kingdom, where some good Bellator fighters reside, including Michael “Venom” Page, Paul Daley and Linton Vassell. No, Bellator is making a leap into an area untouched by the UFC. Bellator 152 will take place in Italy.
The move to Italy is simply a no-brainer for a promotion like Bellator. The UFC has already hit a lot of other countries in Europe, whereas the market hasn’t really been there yet in Italy like it has been in other European countries. It takes to time to grow and develop the market, but here Bellator is striking when a promotion like Venator FC is becoming one of the bigger promotions in Europe. Some may look at this as a tough move or a bad idea, but it appears the table is being set rather nicely for Bellator to grab a nice little foothold in an untapped market.
It’s simply a smart idea for the company to take advantage of a region where the UFC has yet to venture. The competition isn’t there yet. Bellator could have gone to the United Kingdom, bringing Daley, Page and its other successful U.K. stars along, but the UFC has already been there. Bellator already competes with the Zuffa-owned brand pretty much everywhere they hold an event here in the United States. Italy, though, is a country that could possibly be Bellator’s own.
Bellator is already taking a step in the right direction by making this a big card. Not only will it consist of MMA bouts, but it will also mark Bellator’s foray into kickboxing in conjunction with Italian kickboxing promotion Oktagon. Bellator needs to bring as many eyes to this card as possible. The organization can accomplish this by offering up a Bellator: Dynamite type of card to Italy. The original Dynamite card was a spectacle to behold. Sure, there were flaws, but it had buzz around it. That is crucially important to Bellator’s attempt to break into a new market.
Bellator will look to achieve this not only with a joint kickboxing and MMA show, but also by bringing some of the better names from the roster to bolster the lineup. Alessio Sakara will take part in Bellator’s first move into Italy. Sakara, thanks to his tenure with the UFC, has long been the most recognizable Italian name in MMA. The 34-year-old’s Octagon record is average at best — he went 6-8 with one no-contest in the UFC — but he is unquestionably the most notable name to come from Italy.
Not only will Bellator bring Sakara to the show, but the promotion will put him in what should be an entertaining fight against Brian Rogers. Rogers is the type of fighter who will put on an entertaining show. Rogers has knockout power and Sakara will be a most willing partner to engage in exchanges. Simply put, Rogers doesn’t get into boring battles. He has nine knockout victories and will go out on his sword trying to get another knockout on his record.
Furthermore, Patricky Freire is set to fight at Bellator 152. Freire has long been one of the top lightweights in Bellator. He has maintained this status to this day with his aggressive striking and dominant ground game. Freire could almost certainly be heading for a lightweight title shot very soon. He could even conceivably achieve that marker at Bellator 152.
There is also one of Bellator’s top prospects, A.J. McKee. McKee, 20, has become a fighter to watch. He has been sensational so far in Bellator, keeping a tidy 3-0 record and finishing all three of his opponents in the first round. McKee’s last two fights have been amazing knockout finishes.
Even on the kickboxing side, Bellator has star power on deck in the form of Melvin Manhoef, who will compete in the main event. Manhoef has been in numerous battles, both kickboxing and MMA, over the years, and he has been one of the flagpole fighters in the promotion’s middleweight division.
Bellator is laying the foundation for this trip into Italy to be a real success. The company has the names. It has what should be entertaining fights. It has co-promotion with an already stable kickboxing promotion. It would seem that the organization has everything going its way. It’s all projection for right now, though. The fights still need to happen, and they could go the way of Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 — as a proud Italian, I really hope that Italy never sees that sort of fight — but Bellator has set the groundwork to be successful in its European venture.
The plan has been set. Now, it’s just time for the execution. If all goes well, it’ll make Italy fall in love with MMA.