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Looking Into the Crystal Ball For MMA in 2023: Part One

Here we are at the start of a brand new year. With the ball in Times Square having been dropped at the stroke of midnight last Saturday, 2023 is in full effect.

Now that you"ve taken that Christmas tree down and you"ve had your pork and sauerkraut dinner on New Year"s Day for good luck, all signs point to the return of MMA in 2023. ONE Championship and the UFC will not return until the weekend of Jan. 13 and 14, so now is the perfect time to peer into the crystal ball for what may lie ahead over the course of the next 12 months.

Predictions for MMA in 2023

Just like last year at this time, we"ll be taking two days to make our predictions for the new year in mixed martial arts. Later this week, part two of this series will be presented, but it all begins today.

Let me get out the crystal ball that my father gave me for Christmas two years ago. Hang on a minute. Oh, here it is.

Bellator MMA Will Hold Three Shows on CBS in 2023

It"s already known that Bellator MMA will hold its first show of the new year, Bellator 290, on Feb. 4 in Inglewood, CA at Kia Forum, once upon a time the home court of the NBA‘s Los Angeles Lakers. Back in November, the promotion announced that the card would be aired on CBS in the United States live at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT.

Bellator 290 will mark the first time that a show from Scott Coker"s organization is aired on broadcast television, having aired exclusively on Paramount Global-owned cable channels in English since its days on MTV2 in the early 2010s.

Live coverage of Bellator 290 will be streamed on Paramount Global"s subscription-based platform, Paramount+ on Feb. 4. Showtime subscribers can watch the event as an on-demand replay after the main event.

Although Bellator 290 is the first time that a Bellator show will be aired on CBS, it stands to reason that the promotion will have three cards on the network this year. As for the reason why, it"s simple;

Saturday Night Timeslot Could Bode Well in Ratings

If you"ve ever sat at home on a Saturday evening and watched something on television, you"ll notice a common theme in the scheduling. Aside from a live sporting event, such as a college football or NBA game on ABC, there"s a pretty good chance that the networks are programming reruns that night.

Few people in the 18-to-49 adult demographic, the group that advertisers go after the most, are homebound on Saturday nights. Nine times out of 10, these would-be viewers are out at a bar, a restaurant, or attending a wedding reception.

CBS itself hasn"t programmed a full night"s lineup on Saturdays since the spring of 2004 and is the lone network out of the Big Three broadcasters that still schedules first-run programming that evening, the long-running 48 Hours Mystery at 10 pm ET/ 9 pm CT.

With the lone sports competition on network television being NBA Saturday Primetime between the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors from Oakland that night, Bellator 290 could easily win its timeslot in the Nielsen ratings. If that happens, CBS could go to Scott Coker and say “We"re impressed with the ratings figures. We want more."

Dalton Rosta Will Win Bellator Middleweight Championship This Year

Staying in Bellator MMA for a moment, one can"t help but be fascinated by the story of an undefeated combatant out of New Castle, PA and an alum of Youngstown State University by way of Seton Hill University, Dalton Rosta (8-0 MMA, 8-0 Bellator). The former linebacker for the Red and White of the Penguins during 2015, Bo Pelini"s first as head coach at Stambaugh Stadium, never took any snaps and left the gridiron after one season to focus on academics while turning his athletic aspirations to the cage

Upon beginning his amateur MMA career on March 3, 2017, with a victory against Sardis Gunther (2-1 amateur MMA) by way of third-round knockout due to punches, Rosta began a 15-fight winning streak that"s been going on almost six years strong. He hasn"t looked back since.

Rosta Now Fifth in Bellator Middleweight Rankings

Dalton Rosta turned pro in March of 2019, joining the active roster of Bellator with a first-round TKO victory over Cody Vidal (1-2 MMA, 0-1 Bellator) after the latter could not continue due to a knee injury suffered just over one minute into the contest. Since then, Rosta has remained unbeaten.

According to the most recent Bellator MMA middleweight division rankings, he"s No. 5 at 185 lbs., buoyed by a unanimous decision victory on the night of Dec. 9 against No. 10 contender Anthony Adams (9-3 MMA, 1-1 Bellator) in Bellator 289. With Rosta now in the thick of the title conversation at middleweight, if he keeps this up, he"ll be the division champion before too long.

If Rosta is able to fight twice and win twice in 2023, his third fight of the year (depending upon when he"s booked to fight again) will likely be for the championship. Should he win that third fight, it"ll set off a celebration that the Youngstown area hasn"t seen since Youngstown State won the FCS National Championship in 1997.

UFC Pay-Per-View Price To Hold Steady Throughout 2023

Finally, in part one, it happened again. Right before the Christmas holiday, ESPN+, which streams all of the UFC"s flagship pay-per-view events as part of the company"s exclusive media rights deal with the MMA leader, announced that the value of pay-per-views would be increased.

Effective with UFC 283 on Jan. 21, the price to watch a UFC flagship event will now be $79.99 (USD) through ESPN+. It"s the fourth price hike since ESPN+ took over exclusive United States rights for pay-per-views in the spring of 2019.

Last year, the cost of a tentpole UFC event was raised for the third time in four years to $74.99 (USD). When ESPN+ assumed exclusive American rights to UFC on pay-per-view in 2019, the cost of the shows actually dropped from when they were on cable.

Initially, the value of a pay-per-view was $59.99, a decrease from the $64.99 price that had to be paid when cable and satellite companies carried the events. Naturally, this brings out a familiar question:

“Don"t We Already Pay Enough?"

The shouts of “Oh, come on! I"m already paying x amount of dollars for my other subscriptions. Now, we need to pay more for a pay-per-view. Don"t we already pay enough?" make for a common refrain. If ESPN+ keeps the price of a UFC pay-per-view steady at the soon-to-be current rate for at least the current calendar year, the casual fanbase comes back.

Regardless of the price hike, diehard fans will continue to fork over the money to see their favorite fighters behind a paywall. If ESPN+ raises the price again within the next year, they run the risk of losing dollars from casual fans.

If a casual MMA fan sees the news that a fighter like Conor McGregor is going to compete on pay-per-view, rather than making that one-time $80 payment, they"re likely to call up a friend and go to a bar that"s confirmed to be carrying the event that night.

Perhaps this latest price hike will be the last one for a while. Maybe by this time in 2024, we won"t be talking about another price increase.

Happy New Year!

On behalf of all of us at Overtime Heroics, here"s to a happy and safe 2023. Enjoy the fights.

main image credits: Getty Images

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