By Schwan Humes
Bellator MMA has long been the number two organization in the North American MMA scene. Regardless of how many other organizations have come into the world of MMA, Bellator has maintained its position as a viable alternative to the UFC. However, the question has now become: Can Bellator ever draw even with the UFC, or surpass the UFC in terms of popularity and/or quality? To the first part of the question, I say no. The UFC is so ingrained in the world that it's almost impossible to replace it in the collective minds of casual and hardcore fans. So the second part of the question comes front and center: Can Bellator replace the UFC in regard to the quality of fighters/fights?
So, if at the top end of their respective talent pools, there isn't much of a gap between the UFC and Bellator, why isn't Bellator more of a contender against the UFC? Top-level talent is only one aspect of an organization, albeit the one that gets the most attention, headlines cards, draws eyes, earns big paydays, and generally pushes organizations and divisions to great heights. What defines the divisions and provides an organization with stability, however, is the second and/or third tier guys who fill out the divisions. In other words, the depth of the organization as a whole and the depth of the individual divisions within the organization are tied together, and this is where Bellator unfortunately falls short. This that will keep it from ever being a real competitor to the UFC, instead of just an alternative to it.
Because Bellator doesn't have this kind of depth, it won't be able to truly compete with the UFC. Until the promotion has roster of legitimate and competent fighters, it will never truly gain the goodwill of fans or of the sport as a whole. Without depth the organization can't provide consistency, without consistency the organization can't develop trust , and without the trust of the fans and the media, Bellator cannot be a legitimate competitor to the number one organization in North America, The Ultimate Fighting Championship.