Bellator Fighting Championships is ready to step out of the UFC's shadow.
According to reports from USA Today, mixed martial arts' premiere second-fiddle is plotting a transition to Friday nights for its upcoming sixth-season.
"It just kind of came down to an analysis of, is there a night where all the factors made it to where we can maximize live-event attendance," CEO Bjorn Rebney said. "Where we can reach the largest audience from an television perspective, to give MMA fans an opportunity to really make a night for themselves with Bellator."
While the shift doesn't quite sweep Bellator out from the UFC umbrella -- The Ultimate Fighter is also relocating to Friday nights for its debut on FX -- it certainly curbs the constant head-to-head with Zuffa pay-per-views and primetime sporting events, such as boxing and college football.
With Bellator riding high off momentum from one of the year's most electrifying fights -- Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez -- the announcement could not have come at a more opportune moment. Season five's tournaments drew record ratings among the MTV2 male demographic in Saturday's 9-11 p.m. timeslot and, despite the barrage of competition, ended on a high-note with two of the five most successful showings in promotion history.
"There's a constant balance between television, which is your primary driving force behind building the brand as you're reaching the available universe of millions upon millions of homes, versus the live event," Rebney explained. "We've always been very, very aware and very cognizant of how much live-event excitement plays into televised-event excitement. You can't have one without the other."
Bellator's sixth-season is scheduled to kick off March 2nd, 2012. Officials have yet to determine whether to maintain the 9 p.m. ET start time for events. As previously reported by MMA Nation, Rebney has decided to add an fifth tournament to the upcoming season in an effort to end the promotion's unpopular non-title "super fights".
A Bellator special event could also be in the works for early 2012. Potential headliners include a rematch between DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez or a featherweight title bout between divisive champion Joe Warren and Summer Series winner Pat Curran. The conclusion of season-five's unresolved heavyweight tournament -- Thiago Santos vs. Eric Prindle to determine the next challenger to Cole Konrad's belt -- is also on tap for the card.