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27th Oct 2016

Would BAMMA/Bellator be a better bang for your buck than UFC Belfast?

There's an argument to be made

Darragh Murphy

Listen, the UFC is where the best of the best go to compete.

When it comes to narrowing down the greatest cards of 2016, the UFC’s product will undoubtedly dominate the top 10s of everyone who’s not employed by Bellator, World Series of Fighting and the like.

But those unmissable cards; the UFC 196s, UFC 200s and UFC 202s of this world come at the expense of a European market that is largely neglected by the world’s preeminent mixed martial arts organisation.

In spite of the fact that three of the promotion’s 10 world champions hail from Europe, we’ve been limited to largely underwhelming UFC shows in recent years and UFC Belfast is no exception to that trend.

It makes sense from the UFC’s standpoint. Why waste the big fights on European fans if they seem quite happy to sell out arenas for lacklustre bouts? The fact that European viewers watching from home don’t impact pay-per-view figures further reaffirms that mindset.

Suggesting that a UFC Fight Night in Europe is less than thrilling is not groundbreaking by any means but one would imagine that it would begin to wear on fans’ patience before long.

Sure, UFC 204 in Manchester was a pay-per-view card and it had a few decent scraps but the majority of the card was made up of unranked fighters and the prioritisation of the North American audience was highlighted by the fact that the main event didn’t get underway until 5am local time, so as to suit those watching at prime time stateside.

Let’s be honest, UFC Belfast is not a great card and this is not to suggest that it should be boycotted by any means, because a UFC event is a UFC event, but if time or money constraints mean that you can only attend one evening of mixed martial arts before the end of the year then perhaps you’d be better served heading to the 3Arena on December 16 for BAMMA 27/Bellator 169 than to Belfast for UFC Fight Night 99.

There’s definitely an argument to be made.

Let’s first look at the prices of both events.

The cheapest tickets available for UFC Belfast in the SSE Arena come in at £45 (€50) while the most expensive seats will set you back £175 (€195).

Comparatively, tickets for the BAMMA/Bellator co-production will set you back between €35 and €146 so tickets for the Dublin card are roughly 25% cheaper than what UFC Belfast will cost you.

Sure you could argue that you’re not going to see Gegard Mousasi, Uriah Hall, Ian McCall, Neil Seery, Kyoji Horiguchi and Ali Bagautinov at the 3Arena but in terms of card depth, BAMMA/Bellator is arguably much healthier.

The Bellator portion of the card will feature Muhammed Lawal, genuinely one of the top light heavyweights on the planet, taking on Satori Ishii, a veteran of the sport. Daniel Weichel is also one of the most experienced featherweights competing in MMA and is probably UFC calibre at this stage.

Meanwhile two-weight BAMMA champion Tom Duquesnoy has reportedly been pursued by the UFC but chose to continue honing his skills under the BAMMA banner and he’ll close out the BAMMA chunk of the night.

In terms of Irish interest, there is no competition between BAMMA/Bellator and UFC Belfast, especially considering the recent withdrawal of top welterweight Gunnar Nelson.

UFC 194: Maia vs. Nelson

The only remaining fighters who will specifically appeal to the Irish crowd at UFC Belfast will be Neil Seery, who bizarrely isn’t even on the main card, and Artem Lobov.

That’s it! Unlike the now legendary UFC Fight Night 46 in Dublin, which was packed with Irish fighters, there will be vast gaps in the action during which casual Irish fans won’t really have any vested interest in the goings-on in the Octagon.

BAMMA/Bellator on the other hand is chock-full of local talent.

BAMMA 27, which will play out in full before the main card of Bellator 169, will showcase the talents of SBG stand-out Dylan Tuke, as well as Kiefer Crosbie, Brian Moore and Alan Philpott.

Our sources indicate that Chris Fields and Ryan Curtis will also be playing some part on the BAMMA card, while a whopper of a women’s bout is expected to be confirmed sooner rather than later.

Team Ryano’s Paul Redmond will make his Bellator debut against the aforementioned Weichel while the crowd will be at its loudest when the undefeated James Gallagher takes to the cage in the evening’s co-main event.

The best of the best of Ireland’s mixed martial artists who are not signed to the UFC will be in Dublin in December and you’d expect a few of them to be pushing for an Octagon debut in the not-so-distant future.

BAMMA/Bellator will also bring something a little bit different to the table in terms of production value.

BELLATOR 157 - Rampage v Ishi

In recent years, Bellator has gone down the route of extravagant, professional wrestling style staging to add an extra dimension to fight fans’ experience of live events.

And while there’s always the danger that that can cross over into tackiness, it’s definitely worth experiencing once and from what we hear, BAMMA will also be incorporating the Bellator production for the duration of their card.

The UFC, on the other hand, has somewhat fallen into the bad habit of becoming rather samey in how they showcase their product.

All fight posters are almost identical and the Reebok gear means it is unnecessarily difficult for fighters to express their personalities unless they have a microphone in front of their face.

2016 will go down as the most important year in the history of mixed martial arts as fighters have become more aware of what they are really worth due in no small part to the WME-IMG takeover of the UFC.

The Bellator acquisitions of Rory MacDonald and Benson Henderson proved that the UFC is no longer the only place for elite fighters to earn a living and other organisations are going to continue becoming more competitive as the sport of MMA carries on burrowing into the mainstream.

Fight fans are going to become more interested in grassroots MMA and it’s only right that young up-and-coming, homegrown fighters are shown support because the Conor McGregors and Ronda Rouseys of the world have to start somewhere.

If you can afford to go to both UFC Belfast and BAMMA/Bellator then by all means have your fill.

But if one is all you can manage then consider the possibility that it’s more important to offer your backing to the Irish superstars of the future than to witness a card that’s, let’s be honest, not up to scratch.

Colm Parkinson is joined by Paul Rouse for a heated debate about Sky Sports’ five-year GAA deal and an exclusive chat with AFL star Zach Tuohy on the new GAA Hour. Subscribe here on iTunes