Bellator 160 is a stacked card, featuring a headlining bout between former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and former Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire. While the main card is airing live on Spike TV on August 26th, the preliminary card will stream on Bellator's website, and that portion features some big names and intriguing storylines as well.
For instance, veterans Bubba Jenkins and Georgi Karakhanyan will square off on the streamed portion of the card. Chinzo Machida, brother of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, will make his debut with the promotion. Kimbo Slice's son, Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr., will also make his debut at Bellator 160 along side teammate Joey Davis.
Keeping stars and intriguing fighters off the main and televised portion of the card has stirred some debate about the placement of fighters in the event. Bellator President Scott Coker defended the strategy on Thursday.
“As everyone knows, in today’s world it’s important to have a strong digital presence and do everything possible to draw attention and really drive traffic to Bellator.com," Coker told SI.com via e-mail. "With our athletes being the focal point of our business model, there is no better way to do just that, than to put the highest quality fights not only on Spike, but also during our Bellator.com-streamed preliminary card.
“In 2016, Bellator.com has experienced double-digit growth on its coverage of the Bellator Prelims over last year. It's truly a testament to the growing talent pool we have at Bellator and the ability to fill the card from top to bottom.”
Coker is right to defend the strategy—it is one employed by other mixed martial arts promotions around the world, either streaming entire events online or keeping big names and draws on the preliminary portion of the card to draw subscribers to in-house streaming services. The WWE has also embraced this model, making their pay-per-view events and library of content available on their streaming service for a subscription and fee.
That’s where Bellator differentiates itself from its competition, making all the fights available to stream online for free, without the need for a subscription.
This isn’t the first time Bellator has positioned themselves to load talent on the preliminary card. Earlier this year, Marloes Coenen was scheduled to fight Julia Budd on the prelims of "Bellator 155: Carvalho vs. Manhoef," as was Marcin Held and Dave Jansen.
Bellator 160 takes place Friday, August 26th, at the Honda Center in Los Angeles. The event airs free on Spike at 10 p.m. ET.