• Gary Friel

The European 22 - Did Bellator Keep Their Promise?

It has been a little over a year since Bellator made the announcement that it intended to launch it’s new Bellator Europe initiative. Along with the initial signing of 22 fighters and the promise of 6 localised shows, a lot of speculation and doubt followed the move as many fans failed to see how Bellator would effectively utilise such a large influx of fighters.

While many more fighters were signed, I thought it could be interesting to look at those initial 22 fighters and see if their decision to put their career and trust in the hands of Bellator, a company that hasn’t always had the best presence in Europe, was a correct one.

The following names are of the 22 fighters who were initially announced: –

Featherweights: Dylan Logan (2-3) Nathan Rose (6-1)

Lightweights: Terry Brazier (10-1) Pedro Carvalho (8-3) Constantin Gnusariev (1-0) Luka Jelcic (10-3) Charlie Leary (15-9-1) Norman Parke (25-6-1, 1 NC)* Myles Price (10-7) Daniele Scatizzi (9-4) Sam Slater (2-0) Richie Smullen (3-1-1) Tim Wilde (12-3)

Welterweights: Ruben Crawford (16-3) Kiefer Crosbie (4-0) Walter Gahadza (17-3) Richard Kiely (2-1) Ion Pascu (18-8) Jim Wallhead (29-11)

Middleweights: Claudio Conti (7-5-2) John Redmond (7-13)

Women’s Flyweights: Antonela Orlic – (0-0)

*Norman Parke had trouble with securing a VISA and subsequently was released from Bellator without fighting. I’m not sure why he couldn’t compete on UK/Ireland cards, but as both parties split amicably around 6 months after this announcement, I’m going to remove him from all statistics going forward.

Fighter Activity

The number one concern among fans and fighters alike was the activity of the fighters. Would they have the opportunity to fight multiple times per year? I would imagine that over a 12-month span, most fighters and fans would consider fighting 2 times per year to be reasonable. The following table shows how many fights each fighter had.

Bellator Fights Since August 1st, 2018

*Norman Parke Statistics Not Counted

There was a total of 31 fights featuring the 21 fighters above, 29 of which took place in Bellator.

The average number of fights between the fighters under Bellator is 1.48, which means that each fighter had (or was scheduled to have) between 1 and 2 fights.

The average number of fights between the fighters including fights currently scheduled for future events is 1.76, which means that most fighters will have fought (or been scheduled to fight) twice for Bellator before the end of 2019.

The average number of fights between the fighters including fights currently scheduled for future events and including fights completed outside of Bellator is 1.86, which pushes the number closer to 2 fights per fighter before the end of 2019.

Constantin Gnusariev and Anotela Orlic competed for Rage in the Cage in November 2018.

Although these statistics paint a picture that fighters competed less than 2 times per year on average, and it will remain under that mark by the end of 2019, it must also be taken into consideration that a wide variety of circumstances may have prevented fighters from being scheduled to fight such as injuries or personal layoffs.

I believe that within the first year of the European expansion, to get relatively close to the 2 fights per fighter mark from this original line up is a small success. Some spotlight may have gone to other European fighters which were signed before or after this roster which might have pushed one or two off cards they wished to compete on.

I believe there would be room for improvement if these stats are consistent amongst the entire European landscape in Bellator, but with an average of 1.86 fights being scheduled for each of the competitors I think Bellator has lived up to expectation in this category.

European Activity Vs American Activity

This is a hard category to get to grips with as it is difficult to really assess the Bellator roster. So many fighters sign one fight deals on the preliminary portion of cards that it can be a challenge to properly assess the statistics.

Although admittedly not the most accurate source of information, for the purposes of compiling data on how many Bellator fighters are under contract I used the List of Bellator Fighters page from Wikipedia.

There are 221 fighters listed as Bellator fighters as of writing this. Of that 221, 21 of those are the European fighters that signed at the beginning of this expansion. This means that 9.5% of the Bellator roster, according to Wikipedia, is made up of these European fighters.

Since the expansion, Bellator has seen 318 fights completed. Of those 318 fights, 28 included one or more of the 21 fighters listed above. This means that 8.8% of all fights completed in Bellator throughout the last year involved one or more of the 21 fighters listed above.

I believe that these statistics show that this initial European influx has had as much opportunity to fight, on average, as other fighters in Bellator. 9.5% of the roster is made up of these 21 fighters excluding what I will refer to as Bellator’s ‘local talent’ fighters, and this 9.5% have been involved in 8.8% of all fights including Bellator’s ‘local talent’.

In my opinion, Bellator have been giving just as many opportunities to these fighters as the others on their roster in terms of having the opportunity to fight.

Localised Events & Home Opportunities

A big part of the Bellator Europe mission statement was to give Europe 6 localised events throughout 2018/2019, as reported by Gareth A. Davies for The Telegraph.

Within the first year of the European series being announced, Bellator has delivered on this promise by hosting 6 events to date within Europe. In the UK & Ireland, events have taken place in Newcastle, Dublin, Birmingham and London, with additional events taking place in Italy and Israel. As Bellator promised these events would happen through 2018/2019, we can also include the 2 scheduled events of Bellator 227 in Dublin in September and Bellator 230 in Milan in October. Although there is also potential for more events to be added, we can gather data from what has already been announced.

6 of the 23 events held by Bellator in the past year have taken place in Europe. This means that 26% of events have come to the continent.

8 of the 29 events, including those currently scheduled, held by Bellator throughout 2018/2019 since the series was announced have taken place in Europe. This means that 28% of events have come to the continent.

These stats are some of the more important throughout my findings. Hosting over a quarter of all events in Europe seems like an enormous expansion for Bellator and shows how committed they are to expand their profile in the area. Not only have this initial line up of 21 fighters been given their promise of 6 localised events, but they will be given a minimum of 8 events instead with the potential for more before the year’s end.

Adding to this heading, we can also look at where fighters competed. Travelling can be one of the most costly and difficult aspects of a fighter’s career and having the opportunity to fight at home can be a massive boost to resources.

For the purposes of this data, I consider a ‘home’ fighter to be one fighting logically close to their home nation. For example, I would consider an Irish fighter competing in London to be a home fighter.

Of the 36 fights that have happened, or are scheduled to happen, which involve these 21 fighters, 32 have been ‘home’ fighters. This means that 89% of all fights involving these 21 competitors have been geographically beneficial.

We can perhaps refine this statistic when we consider that Ion Pascu makes up 50% of 11% of fights that took place in a non-home location. Other than Pascu, only Kiefer Crosbie and Pedro Carvalho competed or have been scheduled to compete overseas from the line up of fighters we are examining.

Fight Momentum & Placement

The most subjective aspect of this piece will look at the momentum of a fight. For the purposes of this data, momentum will be defined by a combination of the fight hype and/or the opponent’s considered ranking/popularity.

The table below shows all fights that have happened or are scheduled to happen including one or more of the 21 fighters in question. I will attach my own opinion on the momentum of the fight and include information on where the fight took place, both on the card and geographically.

Bellator Fights & Momentum Since August 1st, 2018

From my view of the momentum, there are 5 High Momentum Fights, 3 Mid Momentum Fights and 28 Small Momentum Fights from the 36 Fights including these 21 fighters. In percentages, that looks like the following: –

High Momentum – 14% Mid Momentum – 8% Low Momentum – 78%

Of the 36 fights that these 21 fighters were involved in, or are scheduled to be involved in, there have been/will be 1 main event, 3 co main events, 10 main cards and 22 prelims/postlims. In percentages, that looks like the following: –

Main Event – 3% Co Main Event – 8% Main Card – 28% Prelim/Postlim – 61%

While these statistics may make it seem as though this selection of fighters haven’t been involved in big fights or haven’t been given big opportunities, many of the fighters have a small amount of fights or have yet to compete at a high level. I believe that considering these specific fighters, it is surprising that almost a quarter of the fights have been main card fights.

Another factor to include here is that not all fights are gauged equally based on card placement. Richard Kiely Vs Michael Page, which is a co main event, would be considered by most to be a higher momentum fight than Tim Wilde Vs Brent Primus.

In addition to the above, Bellator had already developed many stars from Europe prior to the European series extension and as a result fighters such as Paul Daley, James Gallagher, Gegard Mousasi and Alessio Sakara are as expected featured in higher positions on the card than many of these yet-to-be-established fighters.

Overall when you gather the data, I think that we have seen a great deal of success for these 21 fighters in terms of whether it was the right decision to put their faith in Bellator during this time. The fighters are being given their fair share of fights and many of them have been able to compete in high profile bouts towards the top end of cards. Bellator has delivered and more on their promise to provide local events which has given these fighters the opportunity to compete in front of their own fans, with some even being able to compete on big network platforms such as Channel 5, Sky Sports and DAZN.

For all the talk and speculation ahead of the European series, these 21 fighters bought into the idea and it is in my opinion that their faith has been duly justified by Bellator Fighting Championships and their continued expansion into the European market.


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