This week’s announcement regarding the freshly-signed television distribution deal Bellator Fighting Championships inked with NBC, Fox Sports, and Telemundo brought a smile to the face of numerous fans and fighters. Included in that bunch was none other than host of ESPN’s “MMA Live” Jon Anik, who Bellator fans might also recognize as the play-by-play portion of the promotion’s broadcast team.
FiveOuncesofPain.com caught up with Anik who gladly took some time to offer his take on the prospect of Bellator making its way to the masses, as well as how big an impact he actually think it will have and whether or not his employment with ESPN will prevent him from stepping back into the booth for season two and beyond…
FiveOuncesofPain: What are your thoughts on the new distribution deal Bellator announced earlier this week?
Jon Anik: It’s a very exciting time for all of us associated with Bellator Fighting Championships. This television distribution deal was what Bjorn had envisioned for quite some time, and to see it materialize is a credit to all of the hard work put in by Bjorn and the rest of the Bellator team. Obviously there were a lot of moving parts, but the end result puts Bellator in position to grow exponentially. Viewers know they will be getting live MMA every Thursday night for 24 weeks in a 30-week span, and the tournaments will all play out live and in primetime. It was certainly worth the wait.
FiveOuncesofPain: How big of an impact on the mainstream – on MMA in general – do you think Bellator’s presence on Fox Sports, NBC, and Universal will actually have?
Jon Anik: Well, it’s irrefutable that the masses (MMA fans) crave more high-level MMA and MMA programming, and I think Bellator’s presence on Fox Sports Net, NBC, and Telemundo puts the organization in position to establish itself as a major player in the sport. From what I’ve been told, the promotional backing from the networks is off the charts, and that will help tremendously. I also think the tournament format is Bellator’s greatest asset and sports fans can really relate to it. There is continuity and a pure legitimacy there. One of my few complaints with other MMA promotions is that the fighters don’t always control their own championship destiny. Here, you win and you move on. And I expect that to have great appeal to MMA fans, hardcore and casual alike.
FiveOuncesofPain: How, to your knowledge, does this affect the organization’s relationship with ESPN?
Jon Anik: I’m not sure it’ll have any great impact on Bellator’s relationship with ESPN.
FiveOuncesofPain: Will you be returning to the broadcast booth for Bellator, does your association with ESPN prohibit that from happening, or is it simply too early to know yet?
Jon Anik: It is my intention to return to the broadcast booth for Bellator and I hope my work on Season 1 will afford me that opportunity. I also hope to continue my work for ESPN and MMA Live. Not exactly sure how it will all play out, but I am confident any conflicts can be resolved.
FiveOuncesofPain: Any closing words on Bellator’s future or that of promotional champions Eddie Alvarez, Hector Lombard, and Joe Soto?
Jon Anik: The biggest winners with this announcement are the fighters and that’s exactly how Bellator would want it. Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard, specifically, are two of the best in the world in their weight classes and they deserve a major showcase in the United States. This TV deal provides that for them, and their confidence in Bellator will be rewarded, not just with money but with mass exposure. The Bellator brass has worked so diligently to avoid pitfalls that have plagued other upstarts and I think this TV deal represents the beginning of a long run for the Bellator Fighting Championships.
A new episode of MMA Live airs every Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. MMA Live can also be seen whenever it fits your schedule.