Bellator Fighting Championships and Spike TV jointly announced on Tuesday the launch of the promotion’s live debut on the men’s specialty cable channel for Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (satellite providers only, 10 p.m. PT delay through cable providers) from the UCI Bren Center on the University of Irvine campus in Southern California.
Bellator’s eighth season will host five simultaneous, eight-man tournaments in the 145-, 155-, 170-, 185- and 205-pound divisions over the next 12 weeks.
The Jan. 17 show will include two championship bouts: featherweight champion Pat Curran will defend against season four winner Patricio “Pitbull” Friere, while 2004 Olympic judo participant and season six winner Rick Hawn will challenge lightweight champion Mike Chandler.
A fan-voted feature bout between War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver) and British striker Paul Daley has been postponed due to a knee injury War Machine sustained in training, said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney.
Bellator’s first live event on Spike will also include the promotional debut of former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral -- who meets Russian import Mikhail Zayats in the light heavyweight tournament quarterfinals -- and additional southern Californian-based fighters like Mike “Joker” Guymon and Jason Lambert.
The event will be followed by a one-hour special featuring Olympic wrestling veteran and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who reached an agreement with Bellator and TNA pro wrestling in mid-2012 to participate in both leagues. (TNA) Impact will serve as the lead-in to Bellator events on Thursdays, with Lawal figuring heavily into both organizations’ futures.
Lawal is expected to make his Bellator debut on Jan. 24 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackersville, Okla., as a participant in Bellator’s season eight 205-pound tournament, said Rebney. The 31-year-old Lawal’s opponent has not been named yet.
The Jan. 24 event will also feature a title bout between welterweight champion Ben Askren and season seven tournament winner Karl Amoussou. Bellator veterans Doug Lima and Ben Saunders will also compete that night, said Rebney.
Media conglomerate Viacom purchased a majority stake of Bellator in late 2011 in anticipation of the UFC’s move to the Fox Sports Media Group. Bellator shows ran on MTV2, a Viacom sister network, in 2012 while the final year of the UFC-Spike exclusive deal ran its course.
Spike TV said it also plans to launch shoulder programming for the live events, including a countdown-type show and another show entitled “Bellator 360.” A Bellator reality show, helmed by veteran reality show producer Bertram Van Munster (“The Amazing Race”), is expected to make its debut as early as mid-year, according to sources.
-- Loretta Hunt