The next promotion to be called into the headteacher’s office and assessed is BAMMA. Throughout 2018, BAMMA held 3 events with two of those being in London and the other being in Dublin. They were due to hold a fourth show in Dublin in December but that event never came to fruition. The year began with a strong show but then the company’s momentum petered out with many now wondering if there is any future at all for the promotion.
The year got off to a great start for BAMMA with an entertaining card at Wembley Arena that was main evented by a welterweight title fight between Alex Lohore and Terry Brazier. The card was pretty deep and featured other notable names including Chi Lewis-Parry, Rhys McKee, Tim Barnett, Fabian Edwards and Colin Fletcher. One of the evening’s highlights came when Dominique Wooding landed a flying knee on his way to finishing his opponent, as well as Fabian Edwards surviving a flash knockdown before quickly submitting Kent Kauppinen shortly after. Bellator president Scott Coker was in attendance at the show which may have been a sign of things to come later in the year.
BAMMA returned to the 3Arena Dublin in May with a card that wasn’t as strong as its previous outing but still featured some good moments throughout the evening. Ion Pascu outwrestled Alex Lohore in the main event, Kiefer Crosbie had another breakout moment when he defeated Josh Plant by TKO in the first round and Fabian Edwards continued his momentum with another stoppage victory. Myles Price, Blaine O’Driscoll and Anthony ‘Pretty Boy’ Taylor also picked up wins on the card.
The promotion’s last card of the year (and for the foreseeable future) came from York Hall in Bethnal Green. There were only seven fights that took place on this card which was lower on name value compared to previous events. The evening’s feature contest saw Terry Brazier become a two weight champion when he moved down to the lightweight division to defeat Rhys McKee. American Anthony Taylor returned to back up his pre-fight trash talk and Chi Lewis-Parry fought to a majority draw against Lukasz Parobiec.
This marked one of the lowest points in the promotion’s history with BAMMA’s communications lead Matt Bourne being one half of the matchmaking team putting this together in Jude Samuel’s absence it’s no wonder that those within BAMMA’s directorship tried to privately distance themselves from this card and the abysmal showing from fans at the venue and press alike.
Attention to detail
At the start of the year, BAMMA had a strong roster but that seemed to dwindle as time progressed which meant that events began to fly under the radar with a lack of meaningful fights taking place. Production at shows was always good with the large entrance ramp and stage giving fighters memorable walkouts and the product always came across well on TV. All of the events were available for UK fans to watch but they weren’t always in the same place with the promotion splitting broadcast duties between ITV4 and FITE TV. Swapping between broadcast partners can cause confusion among fans so it would have been better to see BAMMA stick to the one channel if they could have.
As the year moved on and events were beginning to lack in number, BAMMA came out with a series of announcements indicating that they were planning a strong end to the year and future 2019. They revealed a number of Irish talent that they had signed as well as a number of different dates for shows next year. Things were beginning to look more promising for the future of BAMMA and the promotion even announced that former champion Tom ‘Kong’ Watson was returning to the company. However, these announcements still didn’t really get BAMMA much traction and ended up not coming to fruition with Bellator emerging on the European scene (more on that later!)
For the Wembley and 3Arena shows, BAMMA used their usual scaled down arena setup and achieved respectable attendances on both occasions. One of the main talking points with BAMMA during the year was the attendance (or lack thereof) inside York Hall on a Thursday night. The promotion deserve credit for trying something different with the whole ‘World Cup’ tie in but this idea was way better in theory than it was in practice. The promotion was hoping that they could ride off of ITV’s coverage of the England v Belgium World Cup group game and get viewers to switch straight over to ITV4 after the match to tune in to the three fight main card. However, there was no promotion of BAMMA’s card surrounding the football on ITV so unless you were a hardcore MMA fan, you wouldn’t have tuned in anyway. BAMMA were hoping they could gain a new audience but in reality no one outside of regular BAMMA viewers would have watched. This also led to a dismal live attendance where no more than 200 people could have been in the building. It was a unique experience watching live fights, football on the big screen and then more live fights though which was enjoyable for those in attendance.
Compared to previous years, no progress was made by BAMMA over 2018 and other promotions like Cage Warriors put on much more successful shows and were pulling away and leaving BAMMA in their wake. Despite beginning the year with a strong roster, this depleted in recent months with Cage Warriors signing some significant names and Bellator swooping in to try and take over the European scene. Many of the BAMMA roster were signed up by Bellator who also took matchmaker Jude Samuel and CEO Dave Green to help head up their European efforts.
Overall Mark C-
The lack of regular, significant events put on and the current state of the company were major factors in contributing to this overall grade. There are no BAMMA shows scheduled for the future, the roster has been decimated and there has been no word of any kind on their future from the company until recently.
Update on BAMMA and its future
When asked if there were any particular factors that caused the company to retreat into silence, a source close to the promotion contacted for comment by WHOA TV said, “I don’t think it came down to any specific thing that went wrong in the end.”
In the course of conversation it then transpired that the Brave CF event that was held in Belfast earlier this year was shepherded by BAMMA. “After we organised the Brave event on a week’s notice, I think we realised we could still do the same events but with the freedom of having significant financial backing.”
It appears as though BAMMA managed to scrape things together at the last minute to ensure that the Brave event took place. “That’s why we were all there in Belfast. They didn’t even have TV trucks the week of the event. We sorted it all out.”
The source, who asked not to be identified, did mention that BAMMA, as people know it, has been shelved and could well be gone for good unless someone looks to revive it in the future similar to Cage Warrior’s recent resurgence. It was already public knowledge that Dave Green and Jude Samuel were some of the first additions to the Bellator Europe team but where do other members of the BAMMA backroom staff stand?
“The core BAMMA people will be moved to Bellator but I’m not sure when,” the insider told WHOA TV. “I don’t think MD Ashley Bothwell has come over yet or even if he will, I’m not certain.”
From the looks of things this is the start of a new era. This is the rebirth of BAMMA. In effect they aren’t going anywhere! A point interestingly enough alluded to by KSW’s Martin Lewandowski in a recent interview. This is still BAMMA, just under a different name.
With considerably more backing in terms of financial and promotional muscle with Bellator now driving the ship, it will be very interesting to see what impact Bellator Europe can make on the scene over the next year.