It’s the fourth week of November and inside the United States, it can only mean one thing. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, cats and dogs, Thanksgiving Day is this Thursday.
Man, it seems as though it was only yesterday we were all gathered around our television sets watching a relocated Rose Bowl Game from Arlington, TX, and the Sugar Bowl from New Orleans in the College Football Playoff.
Makes you wonder where the time goes, doesn’t it?
At this time every year, it’s tradition for people to pause, if only for a moment, as they take stock of everything they have to be grateful for throughout the course of a calendar year, be it our families, our friends, our health, our significant others, what have you.
But here at Overtime Heroics, we don’t do sappy at Thanksgiving. Here’s what you should be thankful for in MMA in 2021!
Bellator Goes To Showtime and Institutes Rankings System
After a topsy-turvy 2020 for Bellator MMA, one which saw the postponement of Bellator 241 on the day of the card due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic inside the United States, and a four-month hiatus due to the virus, the promotion’s 2021 has been much better.
In a February press conference, it was announced that effective with Bellator 255, all Bellator MMA events would be televised inside the United States via the Showtime premium cable network, with most cards airing in Bellator’s classic Friday night timeslot.
Bellator on Showtime has been a major boost for both parties, increasing the promotion’s visibility on television, something that its previous United States TV partnership with CBS Sports Network lacked.
Bellator 255 was the first MMA event to air on Showtime since 2013 when the network broadcast the final event of the late Strikeforce MMA promotion before its closure.
A week after the momentous press conference, Bellator MMA also revealed that effective with the aforementioned Bellator 255, the promotion would launch its own rankings system, consisting of each weight class’ incumbent champion and the top 10 contenders in the divisions, along with pound-for-pound rankings for both men and women.
Bellator Instituting Five-Round Fights For All Main Events in 2022
Bellator wasn’t quite done making news with the move to Showtime, as back in September, Bellator MMA President Scott Coker went on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani and announced that starting in the new year, all main event fights, regardless of championship status in the headliners, will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round.
For years, fans of MMA have been wondering why Bellator had abstained from having five-round main events across the board when the UFC has been holding five-round main events nearly every week, championship fight or no, for the past 10 years.
Coker himself said that there were some fights that were nontitle main events he felt should have gone the full five rounds in his promotion, such as the Phil Davis vs. Yoel Romero fight back in September and he felt that now was the right time to make the switch.
It’ll be a welcome change for fans and viewers alike beginning in a few short months.
The Fans Are Back
Finally this Thanksgiving, MMA fans are most grateful that they can physically attend cards again in the arena.
In March of 2020, a UFC Fight Night went ahead as scheduled during the second weekend of March in Brazil despite COVID-19 being declared as a pandemic earlier that week.
On March 11, 2020, the sporting world came to a complete stop when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was revealed to have tested positive for COVID, becoming the first athlete in an American sports organization to be stricken by the coronavirus.
In the interim, all pro sports leagues that were in-season at the time, save for Submission Underground, halted competition indefinitely, with the UFC calling off all then-upcoming shows the following Monday.
Fast-forward to roughly two months later, and the UFC returned, sans audience, in Jacksonville for three shows in eight nights. This would only be the start of a yearlong stretch of shows without a crowd of any kind and only the sound of silence in the arenas.
Back in March, nearly one full year removed from the decision to cancel shows via vis major for the first time in UFC promotional history, UFC President Dana White announced that UFC 261 on April 24 would be held at the same VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville where the promotion returned to live action during the pandemic– this time with a full audience.
Since then, every UFC pay-per-view event has been held in a traditional arena setting at full capacity, with other MMA promotions following suit. Even the UFC Apex-based Fight Nights have been held at full capacity, albeit at just a full capacity of 300 audience members.
At the core, the lifeblood of MMA, like all other sports, are the fans. Not having the crowd for most of 2020 created an eerie, almost ASMR-like feeling for the fans at home, who were left to only scream at the TV, but with the fans back at full capacity, an important part of the MMA experience is back, as well.
On behalf of all of us at Overtime Heroics, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving this week.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images