Bellator MMA promotion moving exclusively to Showtime

Bellator-MMA-president-Scott-Coker-during-Showtime-announcement

Bellator MMA president Scott Coker. (Bellator MMA)

LOS ANGELES — The Bellator mixed martial arts promotion is moving to Showtime.

Bellator will be televised exclusively on the premium cable network under terms of a new agreement announced Tuesday. Both Bellator and Showtime are owned by ViacomCBS.

The telecast deal begins in April with the first in a series of Friday night events on Showtime, during which the promotion will launch a light heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. Bellator 255 on April 2 will be headlined by a featherweight title fight between Patricio Freire and Emmanuel Sanchez.

Bellator has staged its shows at a casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, since its return in July 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bellator aired its main events on CBS Sports Network since last September. Before that, the promotion was on the DAZN streaming service, frustrating many fans.

Bellator President Scott Coker has a lengthy history with Showtime. The defunct Strikeforce promotion aired its fights on Showtime from 2007-13 while Coker ran that promotion before the UFC bought it.

Showtime is doubling down on its commitment to combat sports with plans to continue its extensive boxing presentations on Saturday nights. Showtime has become the dominant cable network in the fight game after HBO dropped boxing in 2018.

The UFC moved exclusively to ESPN in 2019.

Coker said Bellator’s eight-man light heavyweight Grand Prix will include an opening-round matchup former UFC contenders Yoel Romero and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in their Bellator debuts on April 16. Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida will meet April 9 on the other side of the tournament bracket.

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